Surtain makes easy transition from high school to No. 1 Alabama


By Grant Nicholls

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Replenishing the secondary was the most important part of Alabama’s 2018 recruiting class. It lost every member of the starting secondary from the team that won the national championship.

Of the 21 players to come in, five played in the secondary, but the player that drew the most attention from the moment he signed with the Crimson Tide was Patrick Surtain II.

The five-star defensive back originally listed LSU as his favorite, but on Feb. 7, Surtain chose Alabama. According to the 247Sports Composite, he was the No. 6 overall player in the class and the second-highest prospect to commit to Alabama in his class.

“Coming in I knew that we were going to have a lot of DBs go to the draft, and I knew that I had a great opportunity to come in and step up,” Surtain said.

Surtain saw the field in Alabama’s first two games, but hadn’t broken through to the starting lineup, until Ole Miss’s Jordan Ta’amu opened the game with a 75-yard touchdown to DK Metcalf, who beat Saivion Smith off the line.

Surtain was inserted as one of the starters from that point on, earning his first start at home against Texas A&M.

Most players get nerves before their first game of the season, especially their first career start, and Surtain wasn’t any different. He just didn’t let it show, finishing with three tackles and his only interception of the season.

“When I got in, I just knew that I needed to do my job,” Surtain said. “Throughout the game, I started to feel more and more confident.”

That confidence has grown as he continues to play, as he has 33 tackles and six pass breakups on the season.

“Patrick is a very talented guy,” defensive back Shyheim Carter said. “It seems like he’s been here before. That says a lot, about coming in and playing at the University of Alabama, that says a lot about a young guy like that.”

Making the jump from high school to an elite NCAA program can be a huge adjustment. Players have to learn an extensive playbook while juggling practice, classes and early-morning workouts.

That transition is made easier by older players, like Carter, showing the freshman how to manage everything.

“When I was a freshman, the older guys did the same thing for me, so I wanted to pay homage back,” Carter said.

The transition was also made easier because of American Heritage High School, Surtain’s alma mater. The team was coached by his father, who played in the NFL for a decade. Surtain and fellow five-star recruit Tyson Campbell, who was rated as the second-best cornerback in the 2018 class, led the defense on a two-time state championship team.

“The school that he played at was a pretty good school, so I mean it’s not [anything] he’s new to,” receiver DeVonta Smith said. “He’s been doing that {competing at a high level] his whole life.”

Surtain will be facing off against a pair of talented Oklahoma receivers in CeeDee Lamb and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Both have 10 touchdowns this season and have combined for 132 catches and 2,367 yards.

“They’re good, high level players,” Surtain said. “They know how to run their routes very precise. Great hands, great route running [and] great speed.”