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February 28, 2011

Keys discusses HBO rumor

TUSCALOOSA | Former University of Alabama linebacker Chris Keys told tidesports.com Monday that online blog reports indicating he has made accusations of receiving improper benefits in exchange for signing with the Crimson Tide in 2005 are untrue. In fact, Keys said, reports of his appearance of any kind on an upcoming episode of Home Box Office's Real Sports program are false.

"I haven't even talked to HBO," said Keys, who now resides in Chattanooga, Tenn. "My mom told me about it when she first heard about it, but there isn't anything to it. I've had some people ask me about it, but I don't know what they're talking about."

NCAA rules prohibit recruits or college student-athletes from receiving cash or other benefits.

Rumors of Keys' involvement in an HBO special followed reports that former Auburn defensive lineman Stanley McClover made allegations of his own to HBO about improper benefits he received to sign with AU out of Fort Lauderdale Dillard High. Reports of McClover's involvement also have not been confirmed by HBO, but a recent al.com report indicated that former AU running back Ronnie Brown spoke with McClover and came away with the impression that he had told the network he was paid to sign.

The Keys rumor has appeared on various sports blogs online, including chuckoliver.net, mrsec.com and others. None of the blog entries reviewed by The Tuscaloosa News reported Keys' involvement in the HBO special as fact, but assisted in the proliferation of the rumor throughout the message board communities that are UA sports-centric.

Told that the blogosphere had indicated he potentially made similar allegations of being paid improperly, Keys added: "That's crazy. That never happened."

Greg Domino, a spokesman for HBO, would neither confirm nor deny that the network's "Real Sports" show is working on a segment on recruiting practices -- or players being paid to play -- in the Southeastern Conference. He said the show does not usually publicize upcoming segments until about 10 days before the show is set to air. The next "Real Sports" installment is set to air March 30th, Domino said.

Keys was among Alabama's top recruits in the 2005 signing class of former coach Mike Shula. He was dismissed from the team in 2006 for unspecified violation of team rules. He made little impact in his only season at UA, appearing in 11 games but making only five tackles with a fumble recovery. Keys spent most of his prep career at Port Barre (La.), but transferred to Stevenson North Jackson for his senior year. He lived with former UA safety Ali Sharrief while attending North Jackson, and both eventually joined UA in the same signing class.

Reached by The Tuscaloosa News, Sharrief said he knew of no improper recruitment of Keys while he was living with Sharrief, during which time he changed his commitment from LSU and then-Tigers coach Nick Saban to Alabama. Keys' change of heart followed Saban's decision to leave LSU for the NFL's Miami Dolphins. Sharrief said he and Keys were both recruited by former Shula assistant Chris Ball.

"I've heard about (the rumors). A lot of people have been asking me about this situation, him receiving benefits," Sharrief said. "I've told them all I know nothing about it. I don't know anything about it, and I know I didn't receive anything."

Keys' live-in situation at the Sharrief home would have made any improper recruitment obvious to his hosts, Sharrief suggested.

"I'm pretty sure I would have known about it. It wasn't like he was driving around in a brand new Mercedes or something," he said.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196. Follow him on twitter at twitter.com/chasegoodbread.

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