"It sent chills from my head to my toes," said three-star defensive lineman Caleb Gulledge. "Being a longtime Alabama fan, it was something else. I remember the first time I talked to Coach Saban about a year ago. I went to Alabama's camp and I was doing some one-on-ones when he noticed me. Coach Saban was watching me. He called me up [after the camp] and offered me. That sent chills from my head to my toes. It was the greatest feeling."
Gulledge has been an Alabama fan for practically his entire life despite both his parents donning orange and blue.
"My parents have been always been Auburn fans, but there is a good side to that," laughed Gulledge. "Whenever [my family and I] took our official visit to Alabama, they said that this is where I need to be. They said Alabama is the best school for me. It made me happy that they actually agreed with my decision. They never really pushed me toward Auburn. We went to the Iron Bowl last year and my dad was actually going crazy when Alabama was winning."
Although Gulledge admits his longtime love for the Tide, he said that he based his college choice from a different standpoint. Like his elder and now friend Kyle Tatum, Gulledge was faced with a tough choice between his beloved Crimson Tide and their Cajun rival LSU.
Gullege said his top two schools from the beginning were Alabama and LSU. He took several visits to both, but kept feeling a pull toward Alabama.
"Actually, I kind of stood back from being a fan and was looking it more from a recruiting standpoint and tried to see what was best for my future," said Gulledge. "Coach Saban is a great coach, but I felt that if he were to leave, the program that Alabama has set up would still fall into place and still be the best choice for me. Whereas, if I went to LSU and their coach left, I felt unsure of how everything would fall in place.
I feel really comfortable at Alabama and I feel like it's my school. I took my visits and felt like LSU and Bama had the best coaches and schools. I took my time and looked at them both very carefully. I went to Bama a lot and every time I went I just felt at home. I get along with the coaches and I love the school. I love their academics, the way they have the dorms, and everything. I really love it. I have no second thoughts at all."
Although Gulledge does not have any second thoughts about his commitment, he said some past rumors have sparked some curiosity about Alabama's intentions with him.
"I have heard rumors, but I never addressed it," said Gulledge. "I always just talked with the coaches at Alabama if I heard something and asked if it was true or not. The coaches always reassure me of everything. People are always talking about the gray-shirting and red-shirting. I don't want to gray-shirt. It is basically a delayed scholarship. You can't go to school or practice with the team. You have to wait a year and then go in as a freshman. There are rumors going around about it, but Bama has not done that to anyone that I know of. They do medical redshirts, but that is a totally different thing."
Gulledge says he cannot wait to be dressed in crimson and white on game day at Bryant-Denny in 2012; however, his early commitment to Alabama last October has not deterred other colleges from still trying to recruit him.
"Most schools have backed off from recruiting me…mostly," laughed Gulledge. "I wouldn't say all the way. LSU still tries to recruit me even though I am committed to Alabama, but I am pretty stable about going to Alabama. I am very happy with what I have now."
Gulledge is also very happy about what Alabama has recruited him for. He has been playing on both sides of the ball for most of his life. He still plays defensive and offensive lineman at Prattville, but said Alabama told him he was being recruited for defense.
"I am very happy about playing defense," said Gulledge. "It is my preference. I am so in love with Alabama that if they wanted me to play offense, I would have played it. But I talked to Coach Smart a lot and they are recruiting me for defense. They told me that offense could be a possibility, but whenever I went to the offensive and defensive linemen camp two or three weeks ago, they told me that defense is what they want me to play, no questions asked."
With his position set at defense, Gulledge said Alabama put his opportunity to start solely on him.
"They said if I come in my freshman year and work hard and get stronger that I could possibly have playing time," said Gulledge. "And then, sophomore year possibly fight for a starting position. So, that was really good news to hear. I kind of researched it a little bit. The depth chart on the offensive side is pretty good, but the defensive side has some potential openings. I might be able to work into a spot somewhere."
Just like every Alabama fan, Gulledge has his favorite players. He said the way his favorite guys play isn't the only reason he looks up to them.
"One of my favorite up-tempo guys who is just a great leader is Dont'a Hightower," said Gulledge. "Courtney Upshaw would be one of my favorite guys who plays the defensive front. Damion Square, Courtney Upshaw, and Dont'a Hightower are all really up-beat and just great guys to talk to. I have seen them at practice so many times and I have never seen one of them with a bad attitude. I have seen Dont'a have a bad practice, but he is still the leader and heart of the defense. He holds it all together. I really feel like all three of those guys are going to have the best year they have had yet."
During the past week, Gulledge's high school has been hosting a football camp for elementary school kids. Harper, Greenwood, and Tatum, who are all Prattville and Alabama alumni, have been in attendance at the camp.
"I know Roman Harper very well," said Gulledge. "The kids are always stoked when the guys come to talk to them. I have gotten a chance to talk with Roman and Bobby a good hour a piece throughout the week. They told me to make the best decision for me and my family."
Pressing his friends toward Alabama is Gulledge's specialty. Four-star Alabama recruit Justin Thomas committed to Alabama just a few weeks after Gulledge.
"I did kind of push Justin Thomas toward Alabama," said Gulledge. "We have been playing football together since we were seven years old. His dad and my dad coached us and we won like five state championships growing up as little kids playing football together."
Torn between Auburn and Alabama, Gulledge and Thomas's teammate and four-star recruit Justin Shanks has a tough decision ahead of him. Gulledge admits he is trying to persuade Shanks to commit to the Crimson Tide as well.
"Justin Thomas and I are working on trying to get Justin Shanks to commit to Alabama too, but he is just being stubborn right now," said Gulledge. "He keeps going back and forth between Alabama and Auburn. I am hoping Alabama can get kind of an edge on him. He is really just trying not to worry about it so much. I think he will probably decide after the season is over with. Shanks works hard and we are both really good friends. I feel like he would be more a nose guard player at Bama than a defensive end. He has gotten a lot bigger and he can move very well for being as big as he is. He is weighing around over 300 pounds now."
Gulledge will head to Alabama with at least a few friends already up there. Gulledge knows Nick Gentry, Nick Perry, Demarcus Milliner, and Trent Richardson.
"Trent hits me in the arm every time I am up there," said Gulledge. "It doesn't feel too good sometimes when he gets a running start. Nick Gentry is always messing around. I am ready to be up there with those guys and start playing."
Although Gulledge has NFL dreams, he still wants to major in education and become a history teacher and coach. Gulledge said he is looking forward to another successful season at Prattville and can not wait to be in Tuscaloosa.