TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Earlier this week, Alabama football coach Nick Saban announced the team’s leadership advice for the upcoming season.
Four of the names on the list were names that graced last season’s list: quarterback Bryce Young, linebackers Will Anderson Jr. and Henry To’oTo’o, and defenseman Jordan Battle. This year, however, the list was expanded to include a fifth name in defensive lineman DJ Dale.
The Crimson Tide leadership council traditionally consists of only four players. That said, Saban said Dale’s rise as a leader on the team justified his being included as the fifth player in the team’s recognized leadership group.
“We have four guys who were in the lead group last year and we added one,” Saban said Monday. “Henry was a really, really good leader, Jordan Battle was a really good leader. We included DJ Dale in the leadership group because he has emerged as a leader in the offseason program. Bryce has been a really good leader and has influenced a lot of people in a positive way and has continued to build presence as his confidence has grown over the past season to be more assertive and push other players to do the things they do have to do to be successful.
“So we really didn’t add a lot of people to that group. But it’s not just about how many leaders and who they are, it’s about how the other players respond to leadership. You know, you can have really good leaders on a team, but if players don’t respond to that because they don’t appreciate doing things right, then that’s a problem too. And so far, for the most part, that group has responded pretty well.”
Over the course of the 2021 season, Dale completed a total of 18 tackles, 12 of which were unassisted. He also had four lost tackles, with opposing offenses losing 21 yards on those tackles. Of those four tackles for loss, two were sacks for 13 yards lost.
Scroll to Next
On Friday, Dale took the podium to speak to the media for the first time this spring training season. During the availability, the senior expressed how he believes he’s grown as a leader over his time with the Crimson Tide.
“The biggest difference this year is being more open,” said Dale. “I’ve always done the right things on and off the pitch. I think that’s me as a person. Being more open and approaching guys, not just in my group. I’ve always had an impact on my group but now I’m trying to touch other guys in different positions and on the other side of the ball.”
Dale said that with so many seniors on Alabama’s defensive line this season, his job as a leader has become easier. The impact of his Crimson Tide years has also given him guidance on how to lead his teammates.
“I think it happened quite naturally for me. I was in a room with different leaders,” Dale said. “For example, Raekwon Davis was a nice guy my freshman year and Phil Mathis has been the guy for the last few years. I try to take different things from them and learn from them as they tried to make me a more outspoken leader.”
Senior linebacker To’oTo’o said that Dale, in his freshman year with the Crimson Tide last season, was someone who had been a leader since stepping on The Capstone.
“DJ has always been a great leader,” To’oTo’o said. “He is a guy who is exemplary. He’s going to go out and work his tail off every day – do his best – so he’s been a big deal for this D-Line group, especially for the defense as a whole. He’s an older guy, everyone looks up to him and he’s done a great job.”
This story will be updated with video from Friday’s press conference.