“That I always wanted to be here and I’d do anything to come back and I thank him for letting me come back,” the Tide defensive lineman said Wednesday in his first meeting with reporters since returning to Tuscaloosa.
Pettway was dismissed from the Crimson Tide football team following an arrest in February 2013. He spent this past season at East Mississippi Community College.
The University of Alabama allowed him to return to school, and he is one of eight players in the Tide’s 2014 recruiting class who enrolled in January.
On Wednesday, he used every positive adjective that came to mind when describing his emotions.
“Surprised. Excited. Humbled. Eager. Everything and anything you could think of,” Pettway said. “I was just ready. I always wanted to be here. It was my first love, University of Alabama, since high school. I loved it when I was here and I’m glad I’m able to get back.”
Pettway is the No. 3 junior college strongside defensive end prospect nationally, according to 247Sports Composite rankings. Pettway had 47 tackles, including 11.5 sacks last season and was named a junior college All-American. He is a versatile player who can play defensive end and linebacker with a specialty in rushing the passer.
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, he saw time in 12 games and had seven tackles, including three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. With prior knowledge of the playbook, he’ll be expected to be an early contributor on defense.
Pettway said the contact between Alabama’s staff and his coaches at EMCC began in November. He said wasn’t able to communicate with the staff much, but said his conversations with Saban have gone well since returning.
“We just pretty much talked about staying on the right track,” Pettway said. “I guess (Saban) knew I had been through a lot or whatever and just wanted to make sure I was ready this time or I was focused enough to come back.”
So what did Pettway learn from his situation?
“I learned how to be more courageous,” he said. “If I see anything or if I’m around anything bad happening around me, I’m willing to stop it or step forward. I’m willing to be the man that makes a change. I’m willing to help anyone around here – any of my teammates. I learned just to be more positive, be more grateful.”
Thankful for a second chance, Pettway said it’s “awesome” to be a part of the 2014 class.
“The 2011 class was real nice, too,” he said, referring to his original signing class at Alabama. “I love all those guys and I like these guys, too. They’re a real good bunch. They work hard. They have their head on right, they go to school like they’re supposed to, and it’s pretty cool to be around them.”