TUSCALOOSA, Ala -- D.J. Pettway's message to Nick Saban was clear upon his return to Alabama.
"That I always wanted to be here and I'd do anything to come back and I thank him for letting me come back," Pettway said Wednesday.
Pettway, who was dismissed from the team following an arrest in February of 2013, spent a year at East Mississippi Community College. He is one of eight players in the Crimson Tide's 2014 recruiting class that enrolled in January.
On Wednesday, he used every positive adjective that came to mind when describing his emotions.
"Surprised. Excited. Humbled. Eager, everything and anything you could think of," Pettway said. "I was just ready. I always wanted to be here. It was my first love, University of Alabama, since high school. I loved it when I was here and I'm glad I'm able to get back."
Pettway is the No. 3 junior college strongside defensive end prospect, according to 247Sports Composite rankings. Pettway had 47 tackles, including 11.5 sacks last season and was named a JUCO All-American. He is a versatile player who can play defensive end and linebacker with a specialty in rushing the passer.
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, he saw time in 12 games and had seven tackles, including three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. With prior knowledge of the playbook, he'll be expected to be an early contributor on defense.
Pettway said the contact between Alabama's staff and his coaches at EMCC began in November. He said wasn't able to communicate with the staff much, but said his conversations with Saban have gone well since returning.
"We just pretty much talked about staying on the right track," Pettway said. "I guess he knew I had been through a lot or whatever and just wanted to make sure I was ready this time or I was focused enough to come back."
So what did Pettway learn from his situation?
"I learned how to be more courageous," he said. "If I see anything or if I'm around anything bad happening around me, I'm willing to stop it or step forward. I'm willing to be the man that makes a change. I'm willing to help anyone around here -- any of my teammates. I learned just to be more positive, be more grateful."
Thankful for a second chance, Pettway said it's "awesome" to be a part of the 2014 class.
"The 2011 class was real nice too," he said. "I love all those guys and I like these guys too. They're a real good bunch. They work hard. They have their head on right, they go to school like they're supposed to and it's pretty cool to be around them."