TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Back in April, an unfamiliar name echoed through Bryant-Denny Stadium.
It was A-Day and some 5-foot-9, 188 pound sophomore — the owner of this previously unspoken name — was working with the first-team defense.
Who in the world is Will Lowery?
Turns out he is a quick riser in the shallow pool of Alabama defensive backs. And no, he’s not a member of the 5-star army of former high school All-Americans.
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Lowery isn’t even among the 85 scholarship players on the roster, so he’s looking to join the lineage of walk-ons turned starters. That proud line includes former All-American Rashad Johnson, who went from a non-scholarship athlete to an NFL draft pick.
Lowery isn’t exactly in that stratosphere yet, but he’s quickly earning the respect and praise from teammates and coaches.
It could be a “fairly significant role,” coach Nick Saban said.
“Will Lowery is a very competitive guy, who did a very good job in the spring, taking advantage of the opportunity,” Saban said. “He’s been here a couple of years, he understands what’s going on. He’s quick, he’s tough. He’s probably going to help us on special teams and may have some role in the secondary.”
Tight end Michael Williams called Lowery a “feisty little man.”
“Most people look at him and think you have the advantage, but I can promise you don’t,” the 6-foot-6 Williams said. “His technique is outstanding and you have to be technically sound in the secondary.”
His A-Day performance only served notice that he’s be a competitor this fall. He tallied four tackles -- three solos -- for the third-highest total on the White team. After the game, he was awarded the Bear Bryant Non-Scholarship Athlete along with another player Saban’s mentioned this preseason, Hardie Buck.
Recruiting talented walk-ons to the program is important, Saban said, because they have a certain soft spot in his heart.
“I was a walk-on, actually, for a little while and I earned a scholarship,” Saban said of his time at Kent State. “So I have a lot of compassion for guys who really want to play and who are willing to go out every day and try to get themselves better to see if they have an opportunity to contribute to the team some day.”
Coming out of Hoover (Ala.) High School, Lowery is familiar with competing at a high level. He made 30 tackles as a senior and returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown.
In the weeks before that senior season, Lowery told Scout.com that he was looking at a range of schools from Wake Forest to Samford while visiting Alabama’s camp.
“I went to Alabama’s camp last,” he told the site. “I went for the experience and because it was Alabama. I really didn’t expect to do as well as I did.”
Now the undersized defensive back who came to Tuscaloosa without a single star next to his name is competing with the former high school elite for one of the prominent roles on the defense of a defending national champion.
By next April, Lowery’s name might not wrinkle as many brows as it did in 2010.
Walk-ons with a role
DB Will Lowery: Started with first team defense at A-Day
WR Hardie Buck: Should see action on special teams
P Cody Mandell: Has been most consistent punter in preseason, Saban said.
K Jeremy Shelley: One of the two top kickers who could share job.