How is the state of Alabama looked at throughout the nation when it comes to high school football?
When the National Federation of High Schools meets each year to discuss football issues and football rules, the representatives that seem to have some of the most respect in the room are the men who are from Alabama. Along with California, Florida and Texas, this small southern state seems to gather more high school football attention than other states. Why is high school football so respected in Alabama?
One of the more amazing facts dealing with college football over the past decade is that either Alabama or Auburn has been in the national championship game in eight of the last nine seasons. Wow! We all know that the two schools have become national recruiters, but the foundations of their teams still are built with players from within the state.
Success is not limited to just the Division 1 level. North Alabama, West Alabama, Samford, Jacksonville State and Troy have all won national championships throughout the years. When UAB rebounded their program from extinction to a bowl in its first year back in competition, 52 players on their roster were from the state of Alabama. The College Football Hall of Fame has 38 members who played their college football in Alabama.
Two players who played high school ball in Alabama will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio this July. Robert Brazile who prepped at Vigor High School and Terrell Owens who played at Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City join 11 other NFL Hall of Famers who have roots in the state of Alabama.
At the beginning of the 2016 NFL season, 62 players who prepped in the state of Alabama were on NFL rosters, placing the state 7th among the top 14 states in producing NFL talent. 70% of the NFL players came from these 14 states. Yet Alabama ranked 13th out of the 14 states in population.
Each year college recruiters from all over the country hit the roads in Alabama looking for players. They are here because “the high school players in Alabama are just better coached than in most other states.” For many years, high school coaches who coached in Alabama and then in surrounding states always said that “the athletes may be better in Georgia, Florida, etc., but the coaching is better in Alabama.” This is particularly true in the smaller high schools.
Why is the coaching better in the state of Alabama? There are two primary reasons. In Alabama, most public schools still employ football coaches who are teachers in the school as well. A coach who does it for a living is generally going to be more motivated and having a bigger impact on students throughout the school day because they spend more time with that player. Volunteers certainly have their place and many are quality coaches, but that is the exception not the norm.
The second reason goes back to the history of football in the state of Alabama. As far back as the 1920’s and 1930’s the University of Alabama was a national champion and made trips to the Rose Bowl. Football became important in the state. When Paul “Bear” Bryant became head coach at Alabama in 1958, recruiting was not national as today. To win, the state needed to produce some quality football players and it didn’t take Coach Bryant long to discover that the better the high school coaches were, the better the players would be. So Coach Bryant started a summer football clinic to train the coaches. Each summer in Tuscaloosa, he would bring in some of the best college coaches in the country to lecture at his clinic. The coaches on the Alabama staff would speak and teach the high school coaches as well. The more the high school coaches learned, the better they coached, and the better the players were that Coach Bryant recruited.
That fact has past on through the generations. Those high school coaches taught football to the younger coaches and their players as well. The high school coaches in the state of Alabama are some of the most knowledgeable in the country, which much of it stemming back to those early clinics.
Our teams have done extremely well on the national stage in competition with other states. Hoover High School is a nationally recognized high school football power.
The Alabama Football Coaches Association, led by former Hewitt Trussville coach Jack Wood is without a doubt one of the strongest football coaches associations in the country. Each year over 600 coaches come to Montgomery to attend the convention.
So where does Alabama rank among the states as far as high school football goes? The coaches in the state can take great pride that Alabama high school football would have to be ranked in the top three states along with Texas and California.
Here’s hoping that the Alabama high school coaches of the future will work to keep it that way!