By JIMMY WIGFIELD
The last place Saraland star quarterback K.J. Lacey expected to learn he had been offered a scholarship to Alabama was while visiting Florida State on Saturday.
Lacey, a sophomore who led all of Class 6A in passing during a state championship season in 2022, had already received offers from Auburn, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Florida State and Georgia Tech but told the Call News in December he was waiting to hear from coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.
“I talked to coach Saban a little (on a previous visit) and he told me he thought I’d have a good chance of playing there but they were going to take it a little slower than usual,” Lacey said Sunday. “I’ve heard about how the recruiting process goes for quarterbacks, so I was waiting on it. I was a little anxious.”
But while talking to FSU quarterbacks coach Tony Tokarz on Saturday, Lacey’s phone rang and Saraland coach Jeff Kelly was on the other end with major news.
“Coach Kelly calls me and I had to get over to where nobody could hear what was going on,” Lacey said. “He told me Alabama offered me, then I had to go back over to the table and tell my dad and everybody at the table. It kind of caught me off guard when I got it. During the day, I had to try and forget about it and just enjoy the visit.”
In December, Lacey told the Call News he ideally wanted to continue playing with Spartans five-star wideout Ryan Williams, a fellow sophomore who has already committed to Alabama.
“I’d like to get an Alabama offer,” Lacey said at the time. “I want to stay together with Ryan. We’ve talked about that. Whatever I get, I’m thankful for. I’ll go where I fit in the best.”
Lacey waited until his visit to Florida State was over before he announced the Alabama offer on his Twitter page. Moments later, the state’s newly crowned Mr. Football called him and pretended to be perturbed with his friend.
“I thought I’d be the first person he’d tell,” Williams joked. “I had to call him. I am excited about it for him. He earned it. He’s done the work.”
Lacey said Williams called him almost immediately after he posted the news on Twitter.
“He was the second person I talked to, coach Kelly, then Ryan,” Lacey said. “He called me right after I posted it, yelling and saying, ‘Why didn’t you tell me you got it?’”
Lacey, who turned 16 this month, has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the class of 2025 after completing 200 of 314 passes for 3,177 yards, 40 touchdowns and only five interceptions as a sophomore. He surpassed 200 yards passing in nine games and had at least four TD passes in six games. Lacey led Class 6A in passing yards this season and was third in the state overall.
But with an Alabama offer in hand, Lacey continues to maintain he is not ready to make a college decision.
“That’s Alabama,” he said. “That’s one of the top dogs in college football. But I’m not going to rush into anything.”
Added Kelly: “K.J. will take a breath and look at all the schools on the table and he and his family will figure out what’s best for him when the time comes.”
The offer from the Crimson Tide was the latest in a burst of offers received by Lacey since Saraland won the Class 6A state championship by defeating Mountain Brook 38-17 on Dec. 2.
Lacey (6-1, 175) got his first SEC offer from South Carolina during the pregame warmups at the Super 7, then got offers from Auburn, Ole Miss and Florida State in rapid succession. Georgia Tech and Texas A&M followed and Tennessee got aboard the train Monday.
“We’re excited for him after the kind of year he had, how hard he works, the kind of teammate and leader he is,” Kelly said. “He has unlimited potential, which coach Saban obviously recognizes. … K.J. went up there to a camp last summer and made a great impression. Of course, Ryan has already committed there, so K.J. was hoping he’d get an offer. Coach Saban came through before Christmas break and I had some good conversations with him. Coach had been talking about taking his time and doing his due diligence.”
QB Country founder David Morris — who has worked with Lacey since third grade and who tutored Eli Manning, Georgia’s Stetson Bennett, Arkansas’ K.J. Jefferson, Duke’s Riley Leonard, North Carolina’s Drake May and NFL quarterbacks Jake Fromm and Gardner Minshew, among others — said in December Lacey is breaking new ground as the epitome of a modern quarterback.
“He can throw it as good as a lot of guys in college right now,” Morris said. “His arm is NFL (caliber) right now in terms of pure arm strength. He is 100 percent can’t miss. He’s as good as this state has ever seen and he’s not done developing. He’s ahead of his years from an anticipation and a pure arm standpoint. … Nothing is guaranteed, of course, and he’s got to stay healthy, stay out of trouble, stay humble and continue to work as hard as he has in the past. If he does that, the sky’s the limit.
“He’s not even a once-in-a-decade player. I’ve been doing this since 2004 and, at this age, there’s never been one like him.”