Four generations of the Strickland family were among the crowd that gathered in the Albertville High School library Wednesday morning to watch Colby Strickland sign to play college football for Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, Arizona.
The 6-foot-3 ½, 296-pound Strickland’s late great-grandfather, Bobby Strickland, and his six brothers all played football for the Aggies. Bobby, who is a member of the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, was a team captain. His wife, 95-year-old Beatrice Strickland Bruce, attended Wednesday’s ceremony.
Decades after the Strickland brothers played, Colby became a force on the Aggie defensive line from his nose tackle position. A three-year starter, he collected 52 tackles, four tackles for a loss, three sacks, nine quarterback hurries, one caused fumble and one interception as a senior.
Strickland is a two-time All-Marshall County and two-time Class 6A, All-Region 7 selection whose performance helped the Aggies gain state playoff berths in 2015 and 2016.
Strickland chose Eastern Arizona College, whose nickname is the Gila Monsters, because it was his best option. The community college is known for sending players to the FBS and FCS ranks.
Former Gila Monster players have also gone on to play in the NFL and CFL.
“I’m going to go and put in my two years, grind, work hard and try to transfer somewhere,” Strickland said.
“They told me they wanted me to get a little bit bigger. Probably around the 3, 305 mark is what they want me to weigh.
“Ever since I started playing I wanted to play college football, and it’s just now coming to a reality.”
The Aggie defense featured packages where Strickland lined up at end, but the Gila Monsters recruited him to play nose tackle.
“It’s one of the funner positions to play because you get to manhandle people a little bit,” Strickland said of nose tackle.
Two of Strickland’s favorite Aggie memories occurred during his senior season.
“I had that interception against Brewer, and I got tackled at the 2-yard line,” he said. “I scored that touchdown against Fort Payne on that pass. Both of them were pretty sweet.”
Pruitt praised AHS head coach Dale Pruitt and defensive coordinator Luke Pruitt.
“They’re real good coaches,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t have played college football if it wasn’t for them. They’re real good people.
“I’m happy my Mom made me stick with it and didn’t allow me to quit. All my friends have been there with me. Coach [Whit] Ratliff has always been there for me, and Coach Pruitt and Coach LP [Luke Pruitt], all of them.”
Ratliff was Strickland’s defensive line coach for four years.
“Colby is very athletic,” Dale Pruitt said. “He’s a great kid and I never had any trouble with him. He was always doing what he was supposed to.
“He’s very well liked and has a lot of people on his side. I wish him well. Aggie football is going to miss Colby Strickland because he’s a good football player.”
Pruitt believes Strickland has the potential to develop into an SEC-caliber defensive lineman.
“This year, especially in the SEC, you had so many coaching turnovers,” Pruitt said. “Anytime you have coaching turnovers, all of them have to have immediate help [from junior college players] because their recruiting deal gets all screwed up.
“I think if Colby takes care of business, he has a great opportunity to play at a very high level. He’s 6-3, 290 and he’s getting out of high school. He may be a real man in two more years.”