It was mid-June of 2009 when Brent Calloway gave his word to Alabama football coach Nick Saban.
He was going to play for the Crimson Tide one day.
There were just two more high school seasons to wrap up in Russellville before he would head to Tuscaloosa.
Two years, it turns out, is a long time to stay committed to one school when the recruitment never ends. Calloway, a five-star prospect according to Rivals.com, officially changed his mind 18 months after making that initial decision when he announced Saturday that he intends to play for Auburn instead.
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As recently as December, Calloway told the Florence (Ala.) TimesDaily that his commitment to Alabama was solid. So the reaction to his change of heart was far from positive and came from all directions.
After announcing his new decision live on national television during Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the negativity came Calloway’s direction by way of social networking websites.
“I got things saying they hope I break my legs,” Calloway told The TimesDaily. “I’ve had death threats. They hope I lose my scholarship. A bunch of crazy stuff. The list goes on and on. I’m still getting it. I say, for at least the next two or three days, it’s going to be pretty crazy. After a week or so, it will die down and everything will be fine up to signing day.”
Nothing is official until Feb. 2 when high school seniors can sign the scholarship papers.
Calloway’s situation isn’t unique.
Offensive lineman Spencer Region of Cullman, Ala., also swapped an Alabama commitment for one to Auburn last February. He later reopened his recruiting again and has yet to make another announcement about his future.
The nation’s top-ranked defensive back also backed out of his plans to play at Alabama before the signing period opened last February. Keenan Allen instead signed with California after changing his mind just days before it became official.
Alabama also has benefited from players who have backed out of commitments.
Orlando running back Dee Hart recently backed away from Michigan several months after giving his word that he would be a Wolverine next season. He made the official announcement of his intentions to play in Tuscaloosa in Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Saban also secured defensive lineman Brandon Ivory a week before he signed with the Tide but after he had promised hometown Memphis that he would be a Tiger.
Speaking at his 2010 signing day news conference, Saban said he isn’t a big fan of making public commitments too soon.
“When a guy commits early to us, to me then we just become the target,” Saban said without naming any incident. “Every other school keeps recruiting them and they know the kid wants to come to Alabama, so now they’re bashing Alabama every day. Whether it is taking our depth chart out and saying we have too many players at that position. I don’t know how all these other schools know about our team, because I know nothing about their team, and they know more about our team than I know about our team.
“ It’s amazing to me. We don’t do that. We do not negative recruit in what we do.”