Crimson Tide trio take title, then turn pro
Posted: Friday, January 13, 2012 7:00 pm
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — National champion Alabama will once again try to keep rolling after losing three underclassmen to the NFL draft.
All-Americans Trent Richardson, Dont’a Hightower and Dre Kirkpatrick said Thursday they’re leaving school to start pro careers, three days after helping the Crimson Tide to its second national title of their careers.
“To leave a legacy like me and Dre have left here, to have two national championships in three years, I think that’s pretty big for us and our family and for the University of Alabama,” said Richardson, a Heisman Trophy finalist and Doak Walker Award winner as the nation’s top running back.
Richardson and Kirkpat-rick, a cornerback, attended a news conference announcing their decisions, while middle linebacker Hightower issued a statement afterward.
Richardson and Kirkpat-rick are both projected as potential top 10 picks and Hightower is also regarded as a potential first-rounder.
Alabama had a school-record four first-round selections last year, including underclassmen Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones and Mark Ingram. The Tide came back and went 12-1, moving to 36-4 over the past three years.
Richardson set school single-season rushing records with 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns in his lone season as a fulltime starter after running behind the 2009 Heisman winner Ingram.
He and Hightower were first-team AP All-America selections while Kirkpatrick was a second-teamer.
The Tide beat LSU 21-0 in Monday night’s national title game when the nation’s top defense yielded only 92 total yards.
Richardson ran for 96 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter after topping 100 as a freshman in the first title game against Texas.
Richardson said he wanted to be able to take care of his mother — who he says has Lupus and still works at a seafood restaurant — and two young daughters.
“It really took a toll on me to make sure my momma doesn’t have to work anymore or my grandma,” said Richardson, who lost two aunts to cancer in the last year.
His grandmother had retired, but returned to driving a school bus.
Richardson said he made the decision Wednesday night after sitting down with his uncle and brothers. He went home to Pensacola, Fla., from the national championship game in New Orleans to discuss his future with family.
Richardson said he received motivation from a childhood in a tough neighborhood where he lost “quite a few friends” to early deaths, drugs or prison.
“This place has changed my life,” Richardson said. “It really turned me from a teenager to a man, and a grown man at that.
“I never thought I’d be in college playing football, or I never thought I’d be almost done with my degree. In 21⁄2 years, I’m almost done with my college degree. That’s big for me.”
Hightower, the team leader with 85 tackles, was eligible for a fifth year of eligibility after missing most of the 2009 national championship season with a knee injury.
He wasn’t present at the news conference, and Saban only talked about Richardson and Kirkpatrick.
Published in The Messenger 1.13.12