Larry Burton (Syndicated Writer)
When you're Nick Saban and you're selling the University of Alabama to linebackers it's a pretty easy sell. Saban is usually going to get who he wants given the pipeline into the NFL that he has created at that position.
It may be easy to get great players, but finding great players who are also great leaders is much harder to find.
However Saban hit pay dirt with this high school senior who has committed to become the next Dont'a Hightower at the University of Alabama.
"I'm comfortable being a leader on defense." said Reggie Ragland, a 6'4'', 250 pound inside linebacker for Bob Jones High School in Madison, Alabama.
"I want to be like a Rolando McClain and now Dont'a Hightower, to be not just the vocal leader of the defense, but the leader by example as well" he continued.
Much like Rolando was called a coach on the field by Saban, Ragland's high school position coach has similar praise for this big linebacker as well as praise for his play itself.
According to his position coach—Jimmy Nave—he has an instinct and intellect that sees things before others and can move players to make the best play. He also says that there's so much he can do from his linebacking position, like drop into pass coverage and cover the fastest running back who may break down the field.
Nave claims he can run a 4.55 40 yard sprint, leap up in the air like the best wide receivers and once the ball is in his hands, can run like a trained running back. All this and bringing a dump truck load of TNT to every tackle.
This is a man his coach thinks could be a tight end, an inside or outside linebacker or even line up on the end as a pass rusher.
Even Ragland himself isn't sure where he will wind up being used and the only two thing he's ever been sure of is that he wants to be a leader and he wants to do it at Alabama. Though many tried to sway him before his commitment (and Florida is still actively trying to woo him) he was always intent on becoming a member of the Crimson Tide.
He grew up watch Rolando McClain and DeMeco Ryans and patterned his play after theirs—both in style and leadership.
In 2009, Ragland had 40 receptions from the tight end position with six touchdowns before hurting his ankle in the playoffs and having two screws inserted into that ankle and having other ligaments repaired.
But it didn't slow him down in 2010 when he moved primarily to defense and registered 90 tackles, 21 of them behind the line of scrimmage. He's also been a star basketball player that dunks with ease and runs the court like a guard.
He made First Team All State in 2009 and 2010 at both these positions in addition to being a college basketball recruiting standout.
In April of this year, Scout game him a five star rating and named him the nations number one inside linebacker prospect.
The humble Ragland told Scout of the honor, "Being named a five-star means a lot to me. I know I have a target on my back now, so I just have to go out and play hard every game. I am kind of surprised by being a five-star because all the good players in this class, but it feels great to be one now."
All this skill, all this leadership, all this maturity, his quick to commit reaction and humble lack of ego make Ragland a rare jewel in this world of self absorbed high school top shelf athletes.
This is a man that will make the members of Alabama nation stand on their feet and cheer very soon, he's already the kind of young man that has made them proud.