As a non-native to the state of Alabama, I must admit I had some bad misconceptions about the state, what some call the "armpit" (or other unattractive body parts) of America.
Having grown up in Arizona and Missouri, I heard many insults about the southern states, especially Alabama. "Redneck", "hillbilly" and "inbred" were many of the views on Alabama I've heard over the years.
Things couldn't be further from the truth. I won't get into all the great things about Alabama, but rather focus on the greatest things about the state: college football and its local high school recruits.
Sure, Alabama has had plenty of great players from out of state. Mark Ingram came from Michigan, Trent Richardson from Florda and Greg McElroy from Texas (to be fair Texas makes the best burgers and quarterbacks anyway).
As Alabama fans, however, we know one player doesn't make a team, and the Crimson Tide is the best display of that. The meat, the backbone, the foundation of the team comes from the very state where the school resides.
'Bama has had past stars come from in-state, with the most recent being Rolando McClain out of Decatur, Alabama.
The recent batch of larger than life players in Alabama have quite a few homegrown boys.
Foley High School in Foley, AL, has been a particularly great dig site. Julio Jones played ball there at the same time as Robert Lester, the recently realized interception machine. D.J. Fluker, the Tide's mighty right tackle followed them just a year later.
The legendary Hoover High is another good prospect location, but the recruits there have the stiffest competition. Josh Chapman, the incumbent nose guard, hailed from there. Fantastic nickel safety and walk-on Will Lowery played ball there, as well as Kerry Murphy, a highly talented yet unrealized defensive lineman.
There is also a small place called Mountain Brook High in Birmingham, AL. A "little" guy by the name of William Vlachos was picked up out of there (I call the six-foot center "the Battle Dwarf"). He was joined by then-five star lineman Tyler Love, who has had a disappointing career due to chronic injuries. Tyler's younger and just as promising brother, who plays on the defensive side of the ball, showed up not long after.
That's not all Birmingham has provided. A guy that leaves trails of fire up and down the football field named Marquis Maze came out of the city. High quality prospects defensive end Undra Billingsley and tight end Chris Underwood joined him.
How about St. Pauls Episcopal in Mobile, AL? This Alabama high school didn't contribute much. Only a couple of nobodies named Mark Barron and A.J. McCarron came from there.
Mobile is also a city that has produced some great college football players. Former LSU cornerback Phelon Jones, an excellent nickle and dime package back, returned to Alabama recently. He is joined by battering ram and four-star fullback Jalston Fowler.
Tuscaloosa itself, unsurprisingly, contributes to recruiting classes. Future star safety and former linebacker Vinnie Sunseri, son of 'Bama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri, came out of the city, though he's not native. Former quarterback-turned-tight end Brad Smelley and the invaluable backup lineman, John Michael Boswell, also hail from T-Town.
The No. 1 nationally-ranked cornerback coming out of high school Dre Kirkpatrick and solid contributor Jerrell Harris at linebacker arrived at Bryant-Denny from Gadsden, AL. Fellow and highly-touted cornerback DeMarcus Milliner, an outstanding prospect who had some freshman blues, came from Millbrook, AL.
Rolando McClain-incarnate linebacker C.J. Mosley, who returned two interceptions for touchdowns in 2010, came out of Theodore, AL. Just another Alabama native who's currently building up to legendary status. His fellow high-potential linebacker, Nico Johnson, who had an outstanding freshman campaign in the 2009 championship season, comes out of Andalusia, AL.
Mosley's co-worker, jack linebacker Courtney Upshaw, comes from middle-of-nowhere Eufaula, AL. Upshaw is just another future first-round NFL draft linebacker from the state of Alabama, playing for Alabama.
Alfred McCullough, one of two of the most likely candidates for the now vacant left tackle position, came out of Athens in northeast Alabama.
Michael Williams is one of the biggest tight ends in the nation and a powerful blocker. He was 6'7", 270 lbs at the start of the 2010 season, and likely weighs more, or at least has less fat and more muscle now. He's quick as a hiccup and has hands as soft as those fuzzy stuffed animals you see at Wal-Mart ('cause all 'Bama fans supposedly shop there and can't help but rub it in). He's from Reform, AL.
There are a slew of lesser known players that were sprouted from the state of Alabama, and a host of many more in the future years. From the spotlight to the scout team, 'Bama loves its 'Bama boys.
Out of state critics can poke fun at the state of Alabama all they want, but it's a treasure chest of college football recruits that upstart places like "The" Ohio State University and the University of Southern Criminal, I mean California, wish they had. Alabama will be laughing in the end.
Though some of the biggest stars are "foreigners", they now bleed Crimson after transforming with the help of native Alabama players. With or without Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide will continue to mine the Great State of Alabama for the highest quality recruits in the nation for years to come. Now, if they can only stop the War Chickens from stealing recruits...