Last Thursday the Publisher of Auburn Rivals site AuburnSports.com, Jeffrey Lee, reported on a relationship between an Alabama football “supporter” and Alabama recruit Brent Calloway that raised questions about the Crimson Tide’s recent signee. (In a followup report by the TUSCALOOSA NEWS website TideSports.com, that “supporter” was identified as Russellville, Alabama, resident Darren Woodruff.)
(Brent Calloway and Darren Woodruff)
In Lee’s Thursday report he alleged that Woodruff had provided extra benefits to Calloway in various forms in order to entice the Russellville High School prospect to sign with Alabama.
The allegations included:
1) “[Woodruff] took Calloway to Tuscaloosa numerous times including the last weekend before Signing Day.”
2) “Following Calloway’s visit to Tuscaloosa that weekend, [Woodruff] drove Calloway out of state, most likely to Florida, and kept Calloway there until returning to Russellville Wednesday for Signing Day.”
3) “Before Calloway’s last trip to Alabama before Signing Day, [Woodruff] is alleged to have made cash payments to Harland “Peaches” Winston, Calloway’s adoptive father.”
4) “Winston received $2,500 from [Woodruff] on at least one occasion.”
5) “[Woodruff] also provided Calloway with a new car, which Calloway drove to school. The first day Calloway drove the new car, it raised enough questions that it was taken back by the end of the day.”
6) “[Woodruff] informed Calloway that Calloway would receive $1,200 each month while at Alabama.”
After Lee released the allegations last Thursday, TideSports.com later reported that the Alabama NCAA compliance office looked into the situation last Friday and concluded - after a day-long investigation - that no NCAA violations had occurred.
From the TideSports.com report:
UA’s investigation found that Woodruff had a preexisting relationship with Winston, a relationship that dates back 20 years. Woodruff said he has known Calloway since he was a freshman at Russellville, a year in which Calloway came into Winston’s care and also sat out of football - long before anyone could predict he would be a highly-recruited Division I athlete.
In his on-the-record comments to TideSports.com, Woodruff did his best to distance himself from the University of Alabama while contending that his relationship with Calloway had nothing to do with athletics.
The latter is the key point in the entire case - and what Alabama, apparently, based its investigative conclusion on.
If Woodruff’s relationship with Calloway was due to the Alabama signee’s athletic ability, then that would preclude the alleged benefactor from providing benefits to Calloway.
In comments to WNSP radio in Mobile last Thursday, Lee also said of Woodruff:
It’s not a booster, it’s not an alumni of [rival school] but it’s a guy who is very, very involved with the athletics department up there. He’s taken [accused recruit] to [school city] several times before.
If Woodruff is indeed “very, very involved with the athletics department” at Alabama and played a role in Calloway’s decision to sign with the school, that could also implicate Woodruff as a booster. If the NCAA classified Woodruff as a booster and he provided the alleged benefits to Calloway, that would be extremely bad news for Alabama.
On Oct. 28, 2008, high school football reporter Bryan App of the FLORENCE (AL) TIMES-DAILY provided background on what apparently was Calloway’s football-inspired transfer from Florence High School to Russellville High School:
Calloway had to sit out last season after transferring from Florence, where he played a few varsity games as an eighth-grader at defensive end and outside linebacker.
During Calloway’s days at Florence, (then-Russellville High School football player Darrian) Graham befriended Calloway, thanks to a mutual friend in former Russellville all-area basketball player Siran Winston.
Calloway said he started seriously thinking about joining his friend at Russellville after noticing former Golden Tigers running back Michael Abernathy, a nationally top-ranked fullback prospect, receive attention from Division I colleges.
“(Graham) said I should come down here,” Calloway said. “I was just thinking, ‘Well, they’ve got Mike down there, and he’s got colleges coming to see him. Next year, they could be coming to see me, too.’ I just felt like Russellville had a better (college) recruiting program than Florence.”
Calloway has a mother, two brothers and a little sister who still live in Florence. Calloway lives with Winston’s father, Harlon Winston, and he’s made a home for himself at Russellville.
In his first full season of varsity ball, Calloway leads the Golden Tigers with 613 yards rushing and has the team’s longest run at 50 yards. He’s not really a short-yardage back, Goodwin said, but more of a slasher, a description that becomes apparent when witnessing Calloway’s upright running style.
Keep in mind that the reported basis for Alabama’s dismissal of the allegations involving Woodruff and Calloway is that the Russellville man had a pre-existing relationship with Calloway that was unrelated to Calloway’s status as a prospective college athlete.
Here again is what Woodruff reportedly indicated to TideSports.com about his relationship to Calloway:
Woodruff said he has known Calloway since he was a freshman at Russellville, a year in which Calloway came into Winston’s care and also sat out of football - long before anyone could predict he would be a highly-recruited Division I athlete
From Calloway’s own comments, it appears the reason he transferred to Russellville high school was to give himself a better chance of being noticed by college football recruiters. (”I just felt like Russellville had a better (college) recruiting program than Florence.”)
Calloway “also sat out of football” his freshman year at Russellville only because he had transferred to the school expressly to further his athletic career.
That was also the same year Woodruff established his so-called “pre-existing relationship” with Calloway.
The same Calloway who, as an eight grader, played defensive end for the Florence High School varsity before starring for Russellville as a sophomore - fresh off his transfer from Florence.