Alabama’s motto for this year’s recruiting class was created shortly after VanDarius Cowan, a 4-star linebacker commit from Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High School, was listening to rapper OG Maco.
Cowan was listening to the song “Undefeated,” and right after he finished hearing it, he took to Twitter to reveal a motto that has taken off since then.
“It just came to me right then that savages want to play with savages,” Cowan told SEC Country. “When you look at the people that are going to Alabama, who’s not a savage? Alex Leatherwood — savage. Markail Benton — savage. We’re all trying to ball.”
“Savages want to play with savages” is best described by Leatherwood, a 5-star Alabama offensive tackle commit. Both Cowan and Leatherwood have been the most vocal recruiters for the Crimson Tide.
“Iron sharpens iron. That’s what it means,” Leatherwood told SEC Country. “If you want to be the best, you need to be with the best. You need to practice hard each and every day with good competition.”
Cowan did not feel like he had that level of competition when he was committed to Florida State. He de-committed from the Seminoles twice, which has made some Crimson Tide fans wonder if he’ll stick with his commitment.
He knew he was going to remain with Alabama because of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who he considers his favorite coach. Once Pruitt was re-hired by Alabama (Pruitt had coached at the school from 2007-12), Cowan knew he was going to end up with the Tide at some point, and he ended up committing back in April.
Both Cowan and Leatherwood are confident in their abilities to compete with anyone in the country. It’s one of the main reasons why both have actively recruited other top players at their position. Leatherwood helped Alabama land 4-star offensive tackle Elliot Baker two weeks ago. Baker actually credited Leatherwood for helping him with his decision. Cowan helped the Tide land a 4-star linebacker in Benton, who spurned Auburn when he committed.
The message both players give to recruits varies, but the same premise is behind each pitch.
“Look, if you come to Alabama, you’re going to have to work,” Cowan said of how he begins his pitch. “If I go to Florida State right now, I can start as a freshman. It’s that simple. When I first went to Alabama, I talked to some of the players and they were telling me that you need to work if you go here. It’s hard. That intrigued me.
“At Florida State, it was all about, ‘We play a lot of freshmen. You’re going to play from Day 1.’ You play a lot of freshmen when that’s all you can play. It’s not like that at Alabama.”
Got Everybody saying Savages wanna play with savages ‼️‼️???
— VanDarius Cowan‼️❄️ (@vandarius98) June 18, 2016
For Leatherwood, he isn’t as aggressive with his message. The nation’s No. 5 offensive tackle takes an “if you don’t want to play here, we will find someone just as good as you” approach.
“I’m very confident in my own abilities,” Leatherwood said. “That’s just a characteristic that I’ve had growing up. We need players at Alabama who believe they are the best and want to play with the best.”
Cowan added: “I don’t want to play with any chumps. I’m playing with top guys who are going to push me to play harder.”
A few weeks ago, both commits were at Rivals’ 5-star challenge camp, where both players received rave reviews. Leatherwood was named the top offensive lineman, and that was with other elite prospects at his position.
When he was going through 1-on-1 drills, Cowan ran over to Leatherwood to cheer him on. He made sure to be as loud as he possibly could be to make sure other recruits noticed the brotherhood the two share.
“That just goes to show you the kind of program that we have,” Leatherwood said. “We got some of the best coaches in the country and we’re going to play together as a unit. Everybody is cool with everybody in this class and we’re all brothers.”
Said Cowan: “I want everyone to see that we’re teammates and we’re going to be there for each other. I want other recruits to get jealous and say, ‘Dang, my teammates don’t cheer me on like that.'”
One of those other players in attendance was 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson. Both Cowan and Leatherwood have Wilson near the top of the list as far as who they want in Tuscaloosa next season.
Cowan, the nation’s No. 5 outside linebacker, said he thinks Alabama is the favorite to land the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle. Wilson is also strongly considering LSU and Florida State.
“He seems like he’s leaning toward us right now,” Cowan said. “I think we’re his top school right now. I’m just waiting to see what he’s going to do because I got to get some defensive tackles.”
Some other recruits that the tandem are recruiting include: 5-star offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, 4-star defensive end Ryan Johnson and 4-star wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith and Henry Ruggs.
Cowan has a message for those receivers.
“You see that quarterback we got from Hawaii (4-star Tua Tagovailoa)?” Cowan rhetorically asked. “That boy can play. We need all of those receivers to slide through.”
Leatherwood said the coaching staff has noticed that the pair has gone all out with making sure Alabama has the best recruiting class for the seventh straight year. He said the staff did not instruct them to do this. It’s something both took upon themselves to do.
“I didn’t consciously choose to do this,” Leatherwood said. “It just came along with my personality. It came natural to me that I should be one of the leaders for this class.”
Like I said earlier, roll with us or get ROLLED OVER ??? #RollDamnTide
— woodrow™ (@Alskee_) June 10, 2016
Don’t expect them to stop getting in the ears of the nation’s top players, especially with Alabama being ranked No. 2 in the team rankings behind Ohio State. It all goes back to the motto championed by Alabama’s Class of 2017.
“Savages want to play with savages,” Cowan said. “It’s simple as that.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Chris Kirschner covers Alabama football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Bryant-Denny.