Pollard waits for right moment

DEKALB, Miss. -- The signing period came and went for Devonta Pollard. Fans badgered the star forward from rural Mississippi, pushing him for a decision one way or another.

For most teenagers, the pressure might have been too much. No one messes around and keeps programs like Alabama, Missouri and Texas in the dark. Athletes ranked much higher than him didn't go that route, so why should he?

The Twittersphere waited impatiently for Devonta, wondering how some brash basketball player could put everyone on hold. But those people, the ones who threw stones and chastised a kid for taking time with what truly is a lifetime decision, didn't know Devonta Pollard.

They didn't know that the soft-spoken young man wasn't concerned with a two-week wait.

They didn't know that two weeks was nothing compared to 17 years of ups and downs, some that made him question whether playing basketball was even worth it.

They didn't know that two weeks was nothing compared to the 15 months he was forced to watch his father wither away.

Ervin Pollard passed away in 2009 after more than a year of battling cancer while Devonta was still a budding ballplayer, a lanky forward eager to make a name for himself. A year later, Devonta's house burned down.

Tragedy put a few weeks of waiting into perspective for Devonta. People could talk, but he would wait patiently.

"There were a lot of people trying to tell me, 'Your daddy would tell you this. Your dad would want you to do this,' but I'd say, 'You don't know. You weren't there 15 years, 16 years. You don't know how he thinks and what he'd want me to do,' " Devonta said.

Devonta said he'd thought about his dad a lot leading up to his decision to sign with Alabama on Friday. His mother, Jessie Pollard, told reporters after the announcement that his father would have lifted Devonta in the air and said, "Big boy, I'm so proud of you. Roll Tide!"

With a grey and crimson cap snug over his head and the decision of his life finally behind him, Devonta breathed a sigh of relief. Fans across the state of Alabama rejoiced. Devonta thought about his father and joked that Ervin already would be looking forward to the season opener, pushing him to get ready in a hurry.

"He would be just pushing me to get better, bigger and stronger," Devonta said. "Not only that, he'd be pushing me to be a better man."

After the announcement was over and the interviews were finished, Devonta smiled, hugged his family and grabbed a quick bite to eat in the back of his high school gym. After that, he grabbed a change of clothes.

The wide-eyed teenager wasn't getting dressed up to go to an after party, though. He wasn't going to run off and revel in becoming one of the most high-profile prospects to sign at Alabama in the last decade. Devonta picked up his bags, changed into some sneakers and headed to an American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event in town.

Friends, family and coaches got to take part in his commitment to Alabama. Now it was time to share it with his father, raising awareness of the disease that took Ervin away from him.

Devonta didn't wait two weeks just to have the spotlight all to himself. He didn't wait two weeks to be a prima donna or to drag out the courtship of five universities.

Devonta waited because he was strong enough to withstand criticism, a strength taught to him by his father. He waited so he'd know the decision he'd make would be the right one. He waited so he could do something special for his father.

He waited for the right moment.