Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban Takes Big Risk Accepting D.J. Pettway Back

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterDecember 23, 2013

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Did Alabama head coach Nick Saban take a risk when he accepted a player he once suspended from his program for a year back on his team?

You bet he did. A big risk.

Defensive lineman D.J. Pettway signed with the Crimson Tide out of East Mississippi Community College last week, according to's Andrew Gribble, 10 months after being dismissed from the Alabama program for his involvement in the robberies of two Alabama students.

The university made a decision that he could come back. We made a decision that we wanted him back. We know D.J. Pettway very well. He certainly made a mistake in terms of what he did. We felt that this one person, because he did the things he was required to do, deserved a second chance.

ESPN reported in February that Pettway waited in a car while former teammate Eddie Williams knocked out and robbed two students.

Alabama DL D.J. Pettway
Alabama DL D.J. PettwayMarvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

It's a bad look for Alabama to accept Pettway back considering the violent nature of the crimes, but the highly visible nature of Pettway's case and subsequent reinstatement puts the spotlight squarely on the player and the program.

Will that pressure be enough to make sure this decision doesn't backfire for Saban?

Only time will tell. But Saban told Gribble that Pettway had been punished enough.

D.J. was never a bad guy when he was here. We never had a lot of problems with him before. He did make a horrible decision to be involved with this incident but his involvement and the severity of his punishment was based on his involvement.

Make no mistake, he was punished. This isn't a case of Saban accepting this kind of behavior. He didn't accept it.

Pettway was booted for a year and spent his redshirt sophomore year at East Mississippi Community College, where he made 47 tackles, had 11.5 sacks and recovered on fumble en route to All-American honors.

Alabama DL D.J. Pettway
Alabama DL D.J. PettwayNelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

He's not getting that year of eligibility back.

Are 13 games enough punishment for his involvement?

It's certainly a lot, and Pettway's return to the program was unorthodox, to say the least. SEC stars Cam Newton, Zach Mettenberger and Nick Marshall all have taken similar paths, leaving an SEC program amid legal issues, spending one year at junior college and returning to the conference. But none of those players ended up at the program they signed with out of high school.

Pettway apparently was a model citizen during his short stay at EMCC, and there's nothing wrong with players getting second chances. Getting a second chance at the school you embarrassed, however, is a much different story.

That's a giant leap of faith for Alabama, Saban and Pettway.

Now that he's back, it's up to Pettway to prove to the outside world that his mistake was just a bad decision and not indicative of who he is.

After all, he doesn't just have his own reputation at stake anymore. He has Saban's, the football program and the University's as well.