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It’s Alabama for Mwikuta

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It was a day of celebration.

One year ago, Troup High’s King Mwikuta announced to the world that he wanted to join the football program at the University of Alabama.

On Wednesday morning, with friends, family members, coaches, teammates and a healthy contingent of media folks on hand in the Troup High media center, Mwikuta made it official when he signed his letter of intent to become a part of the Alabama football family.

Mwikuta will be an early enrollee at Alabama, so he’ll be in class in January, and he’ll be able to go through spring practice with his soon-to-be teammates under the watchful eye of legendary head coach Nick Saban.

“I’m going there so I can do what I love,” Mwikuta said. “And I want to major in radiology, to set me up for life. Everybody thinks it’s just because of the winning, and coach Saban, but there’s more to it. It’s everything.”

Alabama is getting an exceptional player who helped Troup’s program enjoy a phenomenal three-year run.

Mwikuta was on the team as a freshman, but he didn’t play as the Tigers struggled to a 1-9 record under first-year head coach Tanner Glisson.

Mwikuta stepped into the starting lineup as a sophomore, and he was a fixture on the defense for the past three years as a defensive lineman and linebacker.

The Tigers went 29-8 the past three seasons, and they won 12 games and made it to the Class AAAA semifinals this year.

“King’s athletic accomplishments speak for themselves,” Glisson said. “He’s a tremendous athlete. What you get off the field is the character. I call King a self-made man. King had every reason in the world not to get to this point, whether it be some things that happened early in his childhood, or difficulties in the class room. The persistence, the dedication, the work ethic is second to none. I think that’s the thing that separates him more than anything else.”

Glisson believes Alabama is getting a player who will do whatever it takes to succeed.

“He’s like a gym rat,” Glisson said. “He loves the game. He’s always around the game. He loves the weight room. He loves the film studies. I think he’s just a good fit for those guys. He’ll go in and he’ll develop, and whether he plays early or he has to compete with other people, King’s not scared of competition. We know that Alabama recruits some of the best people in the country. He just wants to go in and have an opportunity to work and be developed.”

Glisson added that once Mwikuta zeroed in on Alabama, the recruiting process was basically over.

“He was allotted five official visits, and he took one,” Glisson said. “He did not play games in the recruiting process. King is a very loyal individual. Commitment means something to King Mwikuta, and I’m very proud of how he handled that situation.”

Mwikuta’s journey to Tuscaloosa hasn’t been without obstacles.

When Mwikuta was 7-years-old, his mother Carolyn Johnson died, and he has lived with his grandmother Yvonne since then.

When Mwikuta stepped to the podium on Wednesday morning, he talked about his mother, and how much of an impact she has made on his life.

“Last but not least, I just want to say momma…..,” an emotional Mwikuta said, pausing as the tears began to flow.

After a few moments, and an encouraging work from Troup coach and recruiting coordinator Stan Brumbeloe, Mwikuta continued.

“Momma, I know you can’t be here today, but just look at what your son has accomplished,” Mwikuta said. “You gave me my name, King. You gave me that for a reason.”

Mwikuta added that “everything I do is for her. I know she wanted me to do everything right, from the time I left her, up until now.”

With his mother serving as an inspiration, Mwikuta has always given everything of himself, whether it was on the football field, in the class room, or in the community.

When he arrives at Alabama’s campus in a few weeks, that work ethic won’t change.

“My goal as a freshman to work harder than I’ve ever worked in my life, and whatever comes after that comes,” Mwikuta said.