Signing day big for two Tigers

Published 11:41 pm Friday, February 6, 2009

Rick Boone woke up Wednesday morning with every intention of signing a scholarship offer. Greg Irvin did not. But by 8 a.m., both were gathered in the library at Demopolis High School to commemorate their commitments to play college football.

Boone made his verbal commitment official when he inked with the University of West Alabama. Irvin, on the other hand, was excited to sign an offer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he had intended to walk on prior to receiving the offer in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“Coach (Will) Friend asked me how bad I wanted to play DI football,” Irvin said of the phone call he received from the UAB assistant coach Wednesday morning. “I told him, ‘Real bad.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ve got a surprise for you.’ I thought he was playing.”

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Irvin, a 5-foot-10-inch, 195-pound linebacker, attended a camp at UAB last summer and made a visit to the campus as recently as last weekend. But the DHS defensive leader did not anticipate receiving a scholarship from the school.

“He just asked me did I want to go to UAB, did I want to play,” Irvin said of a conversation he had with UAB head coach Neil Callaway. “He told me the whole time he wanted me in his program. I thought I was going to have to walk on. It’s not because I’m not a good player. It’s because of my height and my size.”

After receiving the offer on National Signing Day, Irvin could scarcely explain the sudden change.

“I guess they like guys that will go full speed,” Irvin said. “you don’t find many guys that will go full speed without you looking over them.”

“Greg’s probably getting this scholarship based more on what he did at camp there this summer with the way he went full speed,” Demopolis head coach Tom Causey said. “It paid for Greg in a big way with a Division I scholarship.”

Irvin is unsure how he will fit into UAB’s plans, but expressed his commitment to succeeding in the program.

“I’ll figure out how to change my position to something else to fit the (size) critique,” Irvin, who received All-State recognition after making 154 tackles and eight sacks in 2008, said. “I love playing football, so it doesn’t matter. I’ll play special teams the whole time. I just love football.”

Regardless of where he plays, Causey is confident in the Blazers’ choice to sign Irvin.

“They’re going to get a guy that is going to go full speed and represent the school well outside of football,” Causey said. “You don’t have to do a lot of motivating to get Greg to come to practice. The players at UAB are getting a heck of a teammate.”

While Irvin was surprised by his offer on signing day, Boone had learned less than two weeks earlier of his opportunity to play quarterback at UWA.

“It feels great. I’m excited,” Boone said. “I can’t even explain it. I was excited just to be a high school quarterback and now to take it to the next level is even better.”

Boone, who threw for 1,434 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 708 yards and nine touchdowns in 2008, faced many of the same criticisms as Irvin. He had long believed he was too short to be a college quarterback. Those perception were overcome when he received an offer from UWA.

“Coach Causey told us it doesn’t matter the size of the player,” Boone said. “It’s the fight and the heart and the determination of the player.”

“Rick will do well in any offense. He understands football,” Causey said of Boone. “Rick’s athletic ability will help him with the speed change. His intelligence level will help him with the terminology.”

Causey also said that Boone’s ability to gel with his teammates and buy into systems will benefit him greatly.

“That’s going to be invaluable for him at the next level,” Causey said.

While inking the offer was a big moment for the DHS signal-caller, he expressed an understanding of his need to begin improving his game immediately.

“I’ve got to be more consistent, put a little more touch on the ball,” Boone said. “I’m probably going to drop a few pounds.”

While the opportunity to play college football was exciting for him, Boone said their were other aspects of the situation that pleased him more.

“I know that it’s going to be a weight off my mom’s shoulders for her to not to have to pay for (college),” Boone said. “It makes me feel good as a child to be able to do that and help my mom after she’s been taking care of me these 18 years.”

“It’s dang sure nice when you’ve got players on your team that are going to get an education and not have to worry about the financial end of it,” Causey said. “We’ve got guys on our team that are getting a full-ride academic scholarshiop and we’re just as proud of them as we are of the ones getting athletic scholarships.”