McKenzie#039;s Sallie signs with UWA

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 2, 2002

Rickie Sallie Jr. has been playing football since he was six years old. He now has the opportunity to play for a college team; he signed a letter of intent to play with the University of West Alabama recently.

The 6-foot, 170-pound quarterback now has the chance to play for the University of West Alabama (UWA) and hopes things will work out so he can see at least some playing time as early as this coming season.

Sallie said he grew up playing recreation league football in McKenzie with the same group of guys who went 9-1 at McKenzie High School this past football season. He said that although he has seen playing time at tailback and defensive end, he has always felt most comfortable at quarterback. Sallie started at quarterback his first year of peewee football and says he has always loved being on offense.

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"I have never been too excited about the hitting aspect of the game," Sallie said. "I have always liked being the one trying to outrun all those other guys."

He said he was very excited about the McKenzie High School varsity going to the playoffs last season. "The feeling was indescribable," he said. "It's a feeling that you don't know until you're there. You can hear about it, but you don't actually know it until you feel it."

Sallie said the feeling is one of knowing that if you lose, there will not be another game. He said that the loss to Sweetwater was heartbreaking for the team.

"The whole team cried," Sallie said. "I was disappointed, but happy, because I can truly say we went to the playoffs. I can say I did that. I was there.'"

"What we have done this year, I would not trade for anything," he added. "The atmosphere surrounding this team was one of unity. We grew up playing together. We knew each other's abilities and it all seemed like it was easy."

The team that went 9-1 this past season is also the same team that played together their junior varsity season when they went 8-0.

Sallie helped lead the team to the playoffs gaining 1,076 yards rushing last season on 117 attempts with ten touchdowns on the ground and 769 passing yards with nine touchdowns via

the air. He averaged 9.1 yards per carry and completed the season with a total of 1,845 yards and an outstanding19 touchdowns.

Sallie was recognized with an honorable mention for quarterback in All-State and set a McKenzie High record for most yards rushing during the regular season with 1,021 yards. He set the record in nine games and all

his statistics were accumulated over 10 games due to his missing one game because of an injury.

The MHS senior said he attributes last season's success to great coaching and teamwork on behalf of the Tigers.

"We always had the talent," Sallie said. "We just didn't have the direction we needed."

He said he feels that McKenzie's new head coach, Shane Smothers, has completely turned the football team around.

Sallie said that Smothers came in as coach this year and worked the players back into shape.

"There is a lot to say about Coach Smothers," Sallie said. "This was his first year ever as a head coach. He made us practice very hard and talk everything out. When Friday nights came, we just showed out."

Sallie added that Smothers never let his emotions get the best of him and he set a good example for the team.

"He never got rattled," Sallie said. "He's the man. He's the best coach that I have ever had in all my years of playing football."

Sallie said he is excited about graduation and about his upcoming college career.

"For me, graduation is like opening a door," he said. "It is one stage of your life. Now, from 18 years old to whenever or wherever you go, it's you. You have got to realize that."

He said he knows that the decisions he will make in the coming months and years will decide his future.

"I feel like the next ten years of my life is where I'm going to be maybe 20 or 40 years from now," he said. "In what I do now, it's like I'm grown. Whatever decisions I make, I have to live with for the rest of my life. I feel like I made one big step in my life already when I signed with WA. I could have stayed home and started working, but I want to further my education and play football."

Sallie said he plans to major in sports and fitness management and has decided to make his educational career his top priority. He also said that no matter what happens, he will always want to be involved in sports whether it is playing or in other ways.

Sallie also said that any student athlete wishing to continue in a sports career should put education above everything else.

"Stay in school and get your education," Sallie said. "Get the bookwork first and let sports come later. Sports are not everything."

He said that injury-risks are high in all types of sports, and an athlete must have something to fall back on in case of an injury.

He said he is very excited about his opportunity with West Alabama and will do his best to turn the football team around for the better. He also said he will do his best for West Alabama and the program there.

Sallie said there is also an opportunity for him also to play basketball at UWA, and he is considering that option.

He said he is looking forward to college life and the coming years and opportunities.

MHS Head Football Coach Shane Smothers said he is very proud of the accomplishments Sallie has made and feels he has a bright future ahead of him.

"Rickie is such a fine student and athlete," Smothers said. "He strives to be the best and has a strong desire to succeed in everything he does. This desire will help Rickie succeed on the college level without a doubt. The best is yet to come for Rickie Sallie."

Sallie's father, Rickie Sallie Sr., also said he is very proud of his son and is anxious to see what the future holds for him.

"I am very glad for the opportunities the faculty and coaches at McKenzie provided for Rickie and I hope things go well for him in college. I am excited to see what the future and college holds for him," said Sallie Sr.

Sallie said he feels the upcoming football season will be a great season at McKenzie High School and he will be back to visit every chance he gets.

"This year's team has something special going for them," he said. "I feel they can win a state championship. I just hope to be on the sidelines every chance I get."