Andrew Bone talks Alabama Football recruiting
What’s up everyone!
Many of you know I recently wrote my first book, The Road to Bama! It officially released today! I wanted to do something a little different today and tell you all how I became a recruiting reporter and a little bit about how the book essentially fell into my lap!
I started my sports writing career in 2003 basically as an intern with Scout.com and BamaMag.com. How did I get into it? Well it’s not your typical story. I was an average HS football player at Westbrook Christian School. I was a wide receiver several pounds ago. I was invited to walk-on at Alabama by Dennis Franchione. I accepted and that was my plan for college. Franchione bolted for A&M and enter Mike Price. Coach Price kept the same deal with the invited walk-ons. We all know what happened there...
Where to Buy Bone's book?
Mike Shula was hired in the spring. He met with the six players who were invited walk-ons. He basically said, sorry you will just have to attend walk-on try-outs. Maybe you will make it, maybe not. By that time I was over it. I decided to attend Alabama as a student rather than an athlete.
I emailed a few reporters, who thought it was a decent idea to interview me about my walk-on opportunity, to let them know I was no longer playing football. One wrote back and asked if I would be interested in an internship since they did not have anyone who covered recruiting for Alabama. Now this is right when people started to follow recruiting and it really blew up about two years later. I decided I would give it a shot. I had no idea what to do or what questions to even ask. I was only a year older than most of the players I was interviewing yet all were calling me Sir.
There was only 1-2 people who vigorously covered Alabama football recruiting at the time. This is prior to the age of social media. There wasn’t Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. There wasn’t Hudl. High school coaches, recruits, parents were mailing me their high school highlight tapes almost on a daily basis. Tracking down players was a little more difficult, but once you nailed down a phone number it was pretty easy to speak with top recruits because their phones weren’t blowing up non-stop from reporters. The only media who cared about recruiting at the time- Rivals, Scout. Newspapers weren’t covering HS football recruiting extensively yet.
I was a student and in a fraternity (Theta Chi) at Alabama. I didn’t think I did a good job my first year. Just so much going on (mainly pledgeship) it wouldn’t have shocked me if they found someone better to report on Alabama football recruits. Fortunately, they kept me on board for another year and my reporting improved.
Once again, people knew names, not faces in the industry back then since there wasn’t social media. I’ll never forget being asked to drive to NBC in Birmingham to film a recruiting segment for their Sunday night show. I was nervous as hell. I was about to go on TV for the first time as a 19 year old. The on-air host told me at the time he wished I would have told him my age before showing up. I didn’t care at the time. I was just thinking, whatever at least I had my one and only TV appearance. He called me the next week to come back to Bham for lunch. Enough people thought the segment was positive that it became a regular segment, ‘Bone Up on Recruiting’. I did not choose the name.
I started writing for The Tuscaloosa News during my junior year in college. I was also still with Scout.com/BamaMag. I was very fortunate to write a weekly column (every Tuesday) and have features throughout the week on TideSports.com. I can’t remember the exact year, but sometime around 2008-2009, Rivals former a partnership with TNews/TideSports. It became a conflict of interest as I was under contract with Scout and had a non-compete. I was forced to stop working with the TNews. That was tough. I thought I had built a very good following there, but felt like I had to stay with Scout because of the chance they gave me early in my career. I also had a lot of respect for Kirk McNair. I enjoyed writing for BamaMag.
I lived in Destin for a year after college not really knowing what I wanted to do in life. I was still a reporter for Scout (covering the Southeast region), but contemplated going full-time in the real estate business. I was fortunate to see Trent Richardson play a few times while I was living down there. I’ll never forget him asking me when Scout was going to make him a five-star? I told him to have a great game and I’ll see what I can do. I had my video camera at his game. It wasn’t working at first for some reason. It finally turned on right after kickoff. Trent rushed for 419 yards that night. He asked me after the game if he was a five-star now? I told him, probably so!
I moved to Homewood, Alabama, in 2009. I’ve been here ever since. Most people think I live in Tuscaloosa. My parents do, but I haven’t lived there since college (2007). I continued to work at Scout the next few years and when it became time to re-new my contract I made the best decision for myself at the time. I signed a one year contract without a non-compete instead of a three year. Eric Winter became the head of Rivals.com that year.
There were some back channel conversations to gauge my interest in joining TideSports/Rivals. I was officially recruited and boy let me tell you I felt like a five-star recruit. Rivals wanted me and I was a priority. They may regret that decision now. Lol. At the time they made sure I felt the love on their end. It was a big career move. I hated telling the higher ups at Scout I was leaving, but it was something that had to be done. I was either going to burn out working for Scout or get rejuvenated with a move to Rivals.
Eric announced my name at the Rivals convention in 2012 in front of about 350 publishers/writers. He asked me to stand up. It was definitely a feel good/embarrassing moment, but at the time I knew I had made the right decision. The fire I had early on in my career had been reignited. I worked with some great reporters at TideSports/TNews yet again. Rivals decided not to renew its contract with The Tuscaloosa News. They wanted to keep me on board, but my original contract was with the TNews rather than Rivals even though I was paid by both. Another tough decision had to be made. Rivals wanted me to stay on board with the new Alabama site. Do I try and stay or remain with The Tuscaloosa News? I’ve been in the recruiting website industry since the beginning. I didn’t want to make a change. I was eager and ready to see what this new team led by Kyle Henderson could do in this market.
I haven’t been happier since Kyle came on board. He is the captain of this ship and I am happy to be on it. I’ve never met someone who works as hard or puts more into this job than him. I’ve been in this business for 18 years. He has more passion and drive than anyone I’ve been around. Constantly looking to be better than he was the previous day and always looking for new ways for improvement. He has made me a better reporter because of how much he puts into it every single day. I really hope our subscribers appreciate him. He wasn’t raised in Tuscaloosa or around Alabama football. Most Alabama reporters aren’t (to be honest). It’s been in my blood since birth. So he has me for that part. Ha. Tony has been a tremendous team reporter since he has been with us. He spent a lot of time covering the recruiting beat in the spring and summer. He was a major help for me. Tyler has also been very beneficial to our coverage during his short time (so far) with our site.
A little more than a year ago I was approached (via email) by Triumph Books about a book idea. I had a conversation a few months prior with a well known sports author about writing a book together. We didn’t talk for a few months and then all of a sudden I get email about writing a book. I assumed it was connected, but it wasn’t.
Tom VanHaaren, college football writer for ESPN, wrote a book in 2018 called, The Road to Ann Arbor. The book did really well so the publisher decided to create a series. They decided the next book would be on Alabama. I was fortunate they picked me to write the book. I figured I would write about the players I covered during the Shula-Saban years. Once I signed the contract and received/read a copy of Tom’s book I knew it was a much bigger project than I could have anticipated. I needed to go back to the Bear Bryant years all the way through Coach Saban. I knew I had room for about 15-18 chapters based on the word limit. Each chapter would focus on one particular player. I needed to interview the player, but also anyone connected with him through his life- parents, high school coaches, mentors, college coaches who recruited them to Alabama or to another school (Auburn, UGA, LSU, FSU, etc...).
So how do you choose up to 18 former Alabama greats? I started thinking about some of the best recruiting stories during my years do covering Alabama football. I wrote down a list of the best players in the Saban/Shula era. Who would have the best story? Who could I get in touch with? There are some in the NFL who I wanted to get, but they have their own books in the works the next few years. It wasn’t like I just decided to skip a few Heisman winners.
I also started thinking about the best Alabama football players of all time. I wrote down a list of about 50-60 names of players who are still alive. Most I had zero relationship with prior to the book. I thought if I can get a few of these players in the book it will have a chance to be a decent read! The very first person who confirmed they would do the book was NFL Hall of Fame OL John Hannah. I felt it was going in the right direction. I used just about every resource possible and blindly reached out to several via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc...with hopes of having some respond. There were several others who I did not reach out to who could have been great for the book. Maybe they will be in the next one!
When all was said and done I had 18 chapters. 18 former Alabama greats who told me their story from start to finish. Each story was very unique. Some had similar upbringings and it’s a testament to their families who may have really struggled, but always wanted the best for their son. The differences between Bear Bryant and Nick Saban as far as their recruiting approach is incredibly different.
The chapters (Foreword: Jay Barker)
1. Lee Roy Jordan
2. David Palmer
3. Johnny Musso
4. John Hannah
5. Dwight Stephenson
6. Marty Lyons
7. Cornelius Bennett
8. Bobby Humphrey
9. Antonio Langham
10. Jay Barker
11. Chris Samuels
12. Brodie Croyle
13. DeMeco Ryans
14. Barrett Jones
15. Trent Richardson
16. TJ Yeldon
17. Rashaan Evans
18. Tua Tagovailoa
I definitely would not have believed anyone if they told me a year ago these would be the 18 men featured in my book. It was a true honor to interview each one individually about their life and recruiting journey. The twists and turns throughout their life and how each ended up signing with the Crimson Tide is fascinating!
This is certainly one of the major highlights of my career. I always thought I would write a book one day, but didn’t know the first place to start. I was lucky the idea was created by Tom with The Road to Ann Arbor. I hope Alabama fans and really anyone who is a fan of recruiting stories will enjoy this book. I know I had a great experience writing it. There were many stressful times putting it all together. I am very pleased with the finished product! I hope you will consider purchasing a copy! Links provided below.
Don't worry! I still have a few recruiting notes...
2021 recruiting notes....
Still kind of the same as last week. Most recruits are on-hold until after the season.
Amarius Mims says he will try to visit Alabama again before announcing a decision on October 14. He remains in close contact with the Tide coaching staff, but still seems like he will most likely choose UGA or Tennessee.
Alabama continues to chip away on the defensive line. The priority targets remain the same. Can Alabama land at least one, maybe two between Shemar Turner, JT Tuimoloau, Shambre Jackson, Tyreak Sapp, Korey Foreman, Tunmise Adeleye? The ones Alabama has a realistic cha be with IMO include Tuimoloau, Turner and Adeleye. I do think the recruiting push for Shambre Jackson has cooled.
Xavian Sorey/Terrion Arnold will remain a heated battle until signing day between Alabama, UGA and Florida. I’m leaning Alabama today on both just based on how the reporters from the other schools feel at the moment, but it’s close....
Kool-Aid: He keeps waiting....door remains open for Alabama.
Sage Ryan: Recently named a top three of Alabama, Clemson, LSU. Top two likely coming soon. I imagine Alabama and LSU. Very tough pull for the Tide, but he is watching teams closely this fall.