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Alabama Roots: 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl

Alabama Roots: 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl

How much does Alabama defensive tackle DJ Dale hate Pinson Valley High School?

“Plenty,” said Dale, which may require some clarification.

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Prior to the Crimson Tide, Dell played at Clay-Chalkville. In Dale’s freshman season, the Cougars crushed Pinson Valley 65โ€“10 on their way to the AHSAA Class 6A championship game. The next season, the Indians defeated Clay-Chalkville, 21โ€“14, in double overtime.

In 2017, when Dell earned the first of his two All-State selections, the 6A Region 6 rivalry got really serious. Pinson Valley handed Clay-Chalkville its only field loss 34โ€“32, then shut out the Cougars 37โ€“7 in the 6A semifinals.

In Dell’s senior year, Clay-Chalkville lost only twice in the regular season โ€“ 28โ€“21 and again 28โ€“20 in the 6A semifinals to Pinson Valley.

“I’ll give them some credit,” Dale said. “Man, we went too far on this. My freshman year, I was able to play the varsity, so we beat them pretty badly. But after that it never happened every year. Obviously, he had huge talent in Troy with Bo Nix, Kool-Aid, Tej (Johnson). He just transferred to Oregon with the Bo Knicks, so this is going to be scary.

“But I don’t like them at all. I like some of the guys out there. Kool-Aid McKinstry, she’s family. I’ve known her a long time. Seen her growing up, so I love her to death.” But that school โ€“ I can’t stand that school.”

Dell will be back on the football field Saturday when it plays in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile.

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No one from Pinson Valley would oppose him, but six more players from five Alabama high schools would join Dale. Former State Prep Stars at the 74th Annual Senior Bowl are:

Troy offensive lineman Jake Andrews (Stanhope Elmore)

Maryland cornerback Zakorian Bennett (McGill-Tulon)

Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham (Park Crossing)

Alabama defensive lineman DJ Dell (Clay-Chalkville)

Troy linebacker Carlton Marshall (McGill-Tulon)

Appalachian State pushing back Cameron Peoples (Central-Clay County)

South Alabama wide receiver Jalen Wayne (Faith Academy/Spanish Fort)

Andrews is putting his high school experience as a wrestler to work in his football career, including the impact of losing in the state semifinals at 6A 285 pounds when he was the division’s defending champion.

“Obviously, the physical side of itโ€”the leverage, the weight distribution, being quick on your feet, being mentally quick,” Andrews listed as benefits of wrestling. “I think it’s one of the best sports for character building, mental toughness. You talk about a sport that will humble you in a heartbeat. It got me state championships my senior year . I had a match that didn’t go the way I thought it was going to go, and a lot of people didn’t think it was going to go that way. I think without it, I probably wouldn’t be half the person Would have been who I am. This is probably one of the most important points I’ve ever made in my life, just to make myself who I am.

“Wrestling is one of my favorite sports, and if I ever have the privilege of having a son, I’ll definitely make sure he wrestles because I learned more lessons from him than I learned from anything else.” So I’m really grateful that I did this.

Four of the 2023 senior ball bowlers from Alabama high schools went on to play football at colleges in the state. But they aren’t the only players from Alabama college programs in Saturday’s game. There are eight more, including five of Dale’s companions and one of Wayne’s.

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Other players from Alabama colleges in Saturday’s Senior Bowl are:

Alabama offensive tackle Emil Ekior Jr.

Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Hall

Alabama defensive back DeMarcco Hellams

Alabama tight end Cameron Latu

Auburn linebacker Eku Leota

South Alabama defensive back Darrell Lutter Jr.

Alabama offensive lineman Tyler Stein

Alabama defensive lineman Byron Young

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There would have been more, but Alabama defensive back Jordan Battle and linebacker Henry Tu’Otu and Auburn linebacker Owen Pappo could not play due to injuries.

The Alabama roots don’t stop with the players this year, but extend to the coaching staff:

New York Jets offensive assistant Pat Bastian played at UAB. Bastian is serving as the running-backs coach for the US team.

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive-backs coach Grady Brown played at Wenonah and Alabama A&M and coached at Alabama A&M, Alabama State and Birmingham Southern. Brown serves as the national team’s defensive coordinator.

New England Patriots defensive-line coach DeMarcus Covington played at John Carroll Catholic and Samford and coached at UAB. Covington serves as the defensive coordinator of the US team.

Detroit Lions defensive assistant Sean Dion Hamilton played at Carver-Montgomery and Alabama. Hamilton is serving as the defensive backs coach for the US team.

Players from Alabama, Auburn and South Alabama are teammates on the US team. The trio of Andrews and Marshall are in the national team along with Bennett, Cunningham and Peoples.

The 74th Annual Reese’s Senior Bowl begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CST on Mobile. NFL Network will broadcast the game.

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Mark Inabinet is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. follow him on twitter @AMarkG1,

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