TDA: Were you always set on coming to Alabama? Did you seriously consider the schools that offered or were you an Alabama fan to the core?
JPW: I grew up an Alabama fan and went through the process and at the time I wanted to play baseball as well as football and other school were letting me do it. But when it came down to it I was an Alabama fan and that’s where I wanted to go to school.
TDA: What was it like playing behind Brodie Croyle? What did you learn from him?
JPW: I learned a lot. Brodie got to start for 3 years and knew a lot about Alabama his dad played there and he taught me how to play quarterback at Alabama and how to be teammate and a leader. Kind of fast tracked me though that process.
TDA: You had the benefit of going through a couple spring practices before you started seeing playing time. When did the light come on for you when you knew you could lead the team as the starting QB?
JPW: It was a mindset from day one. I came in there and wanted play. iI learned a lot as a freshman. Coach Shula was there and I went through spring practice well and I got a lot of experience the first couple of years and was able to figure it out through good coaching.
TDA: The 2006 Arkansas game was like a coming of age moment in the eyes of Alabama fans. You were 16-20 with 3 TD’s and almost 250 yards. Were you in the zone that game?
JPW: It was the first SEC road game I played and it was a big moment. We put together a good game plan and I think maybe I was in the zone but we couldn’t close the door in the fourth quarter.
TDA: Coach Shula is regarded as one of the best QB coaches. What was it like having him mentor you and how did you take it when he was let go?
JPW: He was great man. He really understood the position. He played it at Alabama and coached in the pros. You see what he’s doing with Cam Newton now. He and Brodie really helped me. It was really unfortunate to see him go, I think he did a tremendous job laying the foundation and stabilizing the program through the probation period.
TDA: How was the transition for you when Coach Saban took over in 2007?
JPW: It was quick. He came in and immediately implemented his plan. It was either buy in or find another spot. I didn’t have a problem with it, but it was a process for some. He came in and he did a lot for the program.
TDA: I recently spoke with Matt Caddell about that catch in the Arkansas game. What did that play mean for you?
JPW: The whole drive was pretty sweet. We drove the length of the field to win and matt caught a couple of other passes that drive too. The year before we didn’t know how to win those games. 2007 was when the tide started turning. It’s not easy to win and Coach Cochran is always screaming about the fourth quarter and that’s part of the process.
TDA: How did it feel to beat Auburn finally and so emphatically with a 36-0 shutout?
JPW: That was big. 2008 we had a good season but wouldn’t have been the same if we didn’t beat Auburn. Luckily we closed the door and to beat them like that was special. Definitely a memory I’ll never forget. It was senior day too so that was really special for me.
TDA: You guys fell just short in 2008 of the BCS game, how did it feel knowing you were one of the guys to help pave the way for the championship runs we saw immediately after you left?
JPW: That was huge. Me, Rashad (Johnson), and Antoine (Caldwell) talk about it all the time. It was good helping turn things around and being there when it first started. A lot of time and effort went into that and we graduated with like 9 seniors. We kinda got Alabama back in the right direction. It’s special to be able to say that.
TDA: What are you up to now?
JPW: Well, I’m back living in Birmingham where I’m a Financial Adviser. I work with Stifel where I’m working with Birmingham families and businesses through portfolio structuring. Just enjoying helping people.
DT Jeremy Clark
LB Eryk Anders
LB DeMeco Ryans
LB Nico Johnson
TE Preston Dial