However, the four-star Scooba (Miss.) East Mississippi All-American informed Nick Saban he was headed back to Tuscaloosa soon after Wednesday began.
"I made the decision this morning, I wrestled back and forth with it," he said. "This morning, I felt good about it and I let the coaching staff know that I was coming back.
"They were just really happy and relieved. They were ready to get me back. Coach Saban and Coach [Chris] Rumph were really happy…everybody was just really happy."
Familiarity with Tuscaloosa, the campus and the football program itself helped Pettway make his way back to one of the nation's top teams.
"Alabama is just something I'm familiar with and what gave them the edge is that I've already gone to school there," he said. "I loved it when I was at school there, I love Coach Saban and the whole coaching staff.
"I loved the Ole Miss coaching staff, too, but with Alabama I knew what it would be like to be at school there because I already did it. Being familiar with them gave me the comfort of knowing what it would be if I went back."
The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder was dismissed from the team in February following an arrest near campus, just four weeks after the national championship win over Notre Dame. Never convicted, Pettway landed at EMCC and immediately took advantage of his second chance at football and school, leading the Lions to the Junior College national championship earlier this month. The sophomore, who will not count against Alabama's class of 2014 numbers, finished the 2013 season with 47 total tackles, 11 1/2 sacks, seven tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
As one would imagine, his goals have changed since the last time he was a student-athlete at Alabama.
"I just want to be the best person, first of all, and give God credit for giving me a second chance to return back to the D-I level," he said. "Personally, I want to lift everybody's spirits that I come in contact with and do something special for somebody.
"On the field, I want to become the best player I can possibly be and work as hard as I can every day, and continue to work on my pass-rushing skills."
Pettway and fellow EMCC four-star defensive lineman Jarran Reed became the first two members of Alabama's signing class Wednesday, and each will enroll next month.
Yancy Porter contributed to this report.