Wednesday was the first day players from the junior college level were permitted to sign with FBS programs. In a surprising twist to some, both D.J. Pettway and Eastern Mississippi Community College announced that the defensive lineman had signed with Alabama.
Last February, Pettway was one of three Tide football players arrested and charged with robbery in connection to the beating of a UA student. All three players were dismissed two weeks after the incident surfaced publicly, with a fourth player dismissed after he was charged with using a debit card stolen in the attack.
While most football programs were busy announcing its JUCO signings Wednesday, Alabama had been strangely silent on Pettway’s return. Until now.
This afternoon, the Tide confirmed that Pettway was one of two JUCO players signed earlier in the week. Shortly after that release, a statement attributed to UA athletic director Bill Battle was sent out to the Tuscaloosa News (vaguely) addressing Pettway’s addition to both the roster and the university.
“One of our primary points of emphasis in college athletics is to make every effort to help develop the total person. As part of the University community, there is an obligation on the part of the student-athlete, the University and the Athletics Department in helping each person that represents us to reach their potential. On occasion, there are special circumstances that arise, particularly when a young person takes the first steps on their own to earn the privilege of attending our University. We treat every disciplinary case with care and sensitivity to all involved and we respect the University’s procedures regarding punishment and readmission. We understand our responsibility, not only to the University and the student-athletes, but also to our community and our state.”
So, there’s that.
As for the questions of how Pettway could return after being charged with a pair of felonies and his exact role in the incident, the News writes that “[t]he degree of Pettway’s involvement remains unknown, however he was charged with two counts of second-degree robbery. Due to his youthful offender status, the outcome of the case remains unknown.”
For what it’s worth, Pettway’s coach at EMCC, Jordan Lesley, raved to al.com earlier this week about the player and person he had come to know during the lineman’s brief stint at the school.
“Not an ounce of trouble, not any issue off the field, in the classroom, campus, whatever. Not one single mishap. A lot of times, kids will go a couple different ways with it. A lot of times, it’s somebody else’s fault. … The first time I talked to him, he said, ‘Coach, I made a mistake. That’s really not me. I made a mistake. I’m going to learn from it. I’ve hurt a lot of people in my life and I’ve hurt the University of Alabama. I’ve hurt myself. What do I need to do?’
“When he said that, I knew what kind of kid I was dealing with. If he ever needed me, I was there for him. Watching him grow a little bit as a player but a lot as a man was a really good experience for me. I enjoyed being around him every day. He’ll be fine. He’s going to do some great things.”