Redefining Commitment

A kid puts on a college cap one day, professes his love and commitment for the school and coaching staff, and then BOOM! A few days or weeks later he changes his mind in favor of another school.

It happens a lot these days. Not only in football recruiting, but in everyday life.

Nikita Stover wanted no part in that game. The game of football was good enough. The 6-1, 205 pound receiver verbally committed to Alabama in August 2003 and signed with the Tide two years ago this week.

He became an academic casualty, but he wasn't dead. Two years later, Stover is a full-fledged student-athlete at the University of Alabama.

"As soon as I went up there to junior college Georgia, Auburn and all them started calling again, but I said, ‘I'm going to stay with Alabama,'" Stover said in his first interview as a UA student. "As soon as I got up there I let everybody know I wasn't going to open it up."

His commitment to Alabama never wavered. He didn't wait two years to squander the opportunity now.

"I'm here. Finally here."

Stover has put on 20 pounds since the time he was a four-star high school player and the number one man in the state. He says he's waited long enough to play for the Tide.

In high school he glided. His feet never seemed to touch the ground. He's been told by the folks who watch him run that he hasn't lost any speed. He thinks the extra weight will make him tougher to defend. "I think it's for the better as long as I can work with it. I can fight off DBs."

"I'm ready," he said. And so is Tide Head Coach Mike Shula. "We talked [ on Tuesday]. He said they brought me in wanting me to play right off the bat -- expect a lot of playing time, work hard and I'll be out there."

Everyone agrees there's no time like the present for Stover. He looks solid. He wasn't a part of the Itawamba junior college football team this past year, a plan that enabled Stover to maintain three years of eligibility at Alabama while finishing his required coursework. He is classified as a sophomore at UA.

"It's the first time I've ever sat out," Stover said. "[It bothered me] a little bit, because I'm afraid, ‘If I don't still got it like I had it', and stuff like that."

It has been good, but not without transitional setbacks. His first day of workouts this semester opened his eyes to the new regimen.

"The first day I came up here I passed out because I've got asthma," he said. "Every day after that I've been doing good. They say I've been doing real good."

He had to sit out the rest of the first day, but with medicine to control the asthma, he is picking up the routine, which includes weightlifting and running under strength coach Rocky Colburn, and player-driven throwing and catching by the skill players to stay sharp.

"They're helping me, Keith [Brown] and DJ [Hall], are helping me out with the things that I don't know. I get more time to learn the system."

Hope springs eternal for Stover. He is just as committed to Alabama now as he was in August, 2003.

"Everything's smooth. Everybody looks out for everybody," he said.

Stover is rooming with defensive back Sam Burnthall, who he played against for three years when Stover was at Hartselle High and Burnthall at Decatur.

Stover will wear number nine at Alabama. His high school number two is taken by Simeon Castille. He looked into getting number five, but Roy Upchurch had dibs. He wanted to stay in the single digits, and settled on nine because he likes Peter Warrick, who was a star at Florida State and is now with the Seahawks.

Stover revealed an impressive basketball note during his interview, too. He once scored 21 points against Athens grad and Tide freshman basketball star Richard Hendrix. This while Hendrix was held to 19 points in the game. Of course, Stover was a senior and Hendrix a sophomore at the time. "They killed us, though," Stover admitted.

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