E.A. Sports Today

Pigskin pipeline

Maxwell Thurmond returns to familiar ground and brings back 5 local players for West Alabama

Father Maxwell (right) and son Sid Thurmond (left) will be reunited after Sid signed to play for his dad at West Alabama Wednesday. On the cover, Sid is joined by Jacksonville teammate Savon Parker (and three other local players) in the UWA recruiting class signed by coach Thurmond.

Father Maxwell (right) and son Sid Thurmond (left) will be reunited after Sid signed to play for his dad at West Alabama Wednesday. On the cover, Sid is joined by Jacksonville teammate Savon Parker (and three other local players) in the UWA recruiting class signed by coach Thurmond.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Maxwell Thurmond insists he didn’t do anything special. All he did was put some highlight tape in front of the proper position coach and let them and the coordinator decide if they liked what they saw. In the end, as always, it was up to the prospect to decide if the fit was right.

Thurmond, a former Jacksonville State player and assistant football coach, returned to his old stomping grounds to recruit for West Alabama this winter and cleaned up.

There was an abundance of college talent in this part of the state this year and the Tigers, thanks to Thurmond’s efforts, landed five top prospects from Calhoun and Etowah counties – two from Jacksonville, including his son Sid, and one each from Saks, Piedmont and Glencoe.

“As soon as I got the job back last February coach (Brett Gilliland) asked were there any players over here,” Thurmond said Wednesday. “I told him there’s a bunch, that this is a good year for the area and he was like ‘let’s try to get all we can get.’”

Before the fax machines stopped running on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, the Tigers landed versatile Sid Thurmond and linebacker Savon Parker from Jacksonville, Saks quarterback Devin Harris, receiver/defensive back C.J. Savage from Piedmont and running back Thomas Ozmint from Glencoe in their 30-player signing class.

Thurmond, the Tigers’ linebackers and special teams coach, was in on several other of the area’s top prospects, too, but two decided to walk-on at Jacksonville State and another went the junior college route.

“We did miss out on a few; that’s part of it,” he said. “We got the ones, like I told one of the guys we were recruiting, we don’t want fence-riders; we want guys who are all in because it’s going to be tough, but we’re gonna have fun with it being tough and we want you to be part of our brotherhood and what we’ve built.”

The group he did sign represents one of the largest groups from the area to choose one program in recent memory.

A big part of that success was Thurmond’s familiarity with the lay of the land and the players’ familiarity with him through their association with his son. At least one of the signees said if Thurmond had been with another program he’d probably go there because of the interest he had been shown by the coach over the years.

“They knew Sid and knowing Sid they knew I’d been at the game and watched them play,” Maxwell said. “I’d been in a stadium or a gym and watched those guys play so I got a chance to see them live, and I’ve gotten to see them live for a long time. They’ve had almost a nine- or 10-year evaluation period.”

The Calhoun County players all visited the Livingston campus together a few weeks ago and they all committed within 24 hours of each other, announcing their intentions via social media. Ozmint committed Monday.

Parker is expected to be a middle linebacker for the Tigers under the direct watch of Thurmond. Harris and Ozmint are projected as running backs. Thurmond and Savage will at least be return specialists. All of them can see the day they’re on the field together as a living reunification of an all-county team.

“It’s pretty cool to go there with guys from our area,” Harris said.

“We feel like we can all go down there together and get it done,” said Parker. “I think we’ll go up there and take over.”

“Maybe we can go up there and turn things around at UWA,” Sid Thurmond said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

For the younger Thurmond, signing with the Tigers will bring him under the direct influence of his father. It will be the first time he’s been coached by his dad in football. Their previous shared experience was in youth baseball.

“It’s a good feeling as a dad your kid gets an opportunity to do something he’s wanted to do,” said Maxwell Thurmond, who was able to attend Wednesday’s signing ceremony because it was his son’s but could have no contact with any of the other signees. “We got kind of crossways because I wanted him to play more baseball. He wanted to play football. That let me realize right then this is something he really wanted, not because of me but it’s what he wanted to do and that makes it more special because he wanted it.”

But now their relationship is about to go to add a whole different dynamic. It’s no longer just father and son, but player and coach.

“He will be my son and everybody knows he’s my son because he’s been on campus a couple times,” Maxwell said, “but at the same time he will not get any favoritism.

“When he screws up, I’m going to be on his butt, and when he does good I’ll high-five him – just like I would all the rest of the kids we have on our team.”



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