Photo by Derrick Mahone
Chris Moody (left) and Dalvin Tomlinson share a laugh after both signed to play SEC football. Of facing each other in college, Moody said, “We’ve been joking about that for three years.”
Dig, if you will, the picture: Alabama and South Carolina, engaged in an SEC championship in the not-too-distant future, and all of a sudden the spotlight shines on Henry County. The Gamecocks align in wildcat formation and Chris Moody takes the snap, with Dalvin Tomlinson menacing from the other side.
“I hope we run it to his side,” Moody said Wednesday, “so I can make him look bad on TV and everything.”
Would that happen?
“I highly doubt it,” Tomlinson replied.
The mood was jovial in the Henry County High School Media Center as Moody and Tomlinson, and seven of their teammates, made their college destinations official on National Signing Day. Moody and Tomlinson took dozens of pictures, signed scores of autographs — including the most important ones, on their letters-of-intent — and celebrated how they landed in the same conference by wildly different paths.
Tomlinson, the star defensive lineman, had 119 tackles — including 12 sacks — and helped lead the Warhawks to the second round of the Class AAA playoffs. He chose Alabama “from Day One, and never wavered,” according to his coach Mike Rozier.
Moody, the quarterback, passed for 1,475 yards and rushed for 1,064 — many of which fueled Henry County’s second-half spurt. He will mainly play cornerback and safety — though the Gamecocks said they’d arrange a Wildcat package for him to take snaps in the shotgun.
Partly to maintain secrecy and partly to make sure he wasn’t overlooking anything, Tomlinson shut the world out for the last two weeks after arriving at his final decision.
“It was pretty tough,” Tomlinson said. “I lost my mother before the season, but my family helped me build back up. When I went there, I liked the coaches, the players and the atmosphere. When I went there, it felt perfect.”
Tomlinson told Rozier of his decision two weeks ago.
“He asked me to keep quiet and I had to honor his wishes,” Rozier said. “We had a long talk and he said the Alabama coaches were the most truthful and most honest. Everything they told him or said, they did. And they didn’t bad-mouth the other programs. In fact, they bragged on Georgia and Georgia Tech. He liked that, he liked the coaches and the way they train to get the players ready. Probably to top it off, there’s the national championship.”
Moody agonized over his choice. He was committed to Vanderbilt until a final trip to South Carolina last weekend.
“To be honest, I didn’t know until Monday,” Moody said. “Everything surprised me. I wasn’t going to go, but I’m glad I did. I woke up one morning there, looking for my mom.”
That’s what told him South Carolina would be home.
Lorenzo Ward, the defensive backs coach recently promoted to defensive coordinator by head coach Steve Spurrier, sold Moody on the school.
“Coach Ward, from Day One, offered him — even though he hadn’t seen him on film,” Rozier said. “He just watched him in the gym. Coach Ward did a great job and then the Ol’ Ball Coach called him in. He was the closer. They thought Chris was a steal, and under-the-radar guy. They were very, very pleased with him.”
Rozier said Moody probably felt pressure to commit when he made an official visit to Vanderbilt. Moody felt terrible calling Vandy to let them know he’d changed his mind.
“It was very difficult,” he said. “I don’t like giving anybody bad news.”
Given the celebrational atmosphere in the media center, however, Moody didn’t mind giving Tomlinson the bad news about what future encounters might hold — or reminding his listener than he scored on an 89-yard run in a spring game with Tomlinson on the other side of the ball.
“In three years, he’s only tackled me once,” Moody said.
Of course, serious contact with the starting QB in practice is frowned upon. But with Tomlinson in crimson and Moody in garnet and black, it would be not only encouraged but mandated.
“Now, I finally get to hit you, Moody,” he said.