Foley's Perry Thompson, Gulf Shores' Ronnie Royal talk about their wild football recruiting rides

Behind the scenes of the recruiting roller coaster featuring top prospects from Baldwin County


Before taking off on what will be a roller coaster of a senior season, both Foley receiver Perry Thompson and Gulf Shores athlete Ronnie Royal have come full circle on their wild ride of the recruiting trail.

From their first visits and offers, to being the guy who everyone knew as they climbed recruiting rankings, to finally preparing for a senior season as a Power 5 commit, their football careers will forever be linked to Baldwin County.

With twists and turns intertwined, the pair shared some lessons learned in the process as well as hinted at who will be in their shoes next after Thompson heads to Auburn and Royal goes to North Carolina State.

Not the only coaster riders

Both acknowledged the hotbed of an area they compete in and dissected what has turned lower Alabama into a recruiting destination.

“We’ve got a bunch of dogs in this area, I'll say. There are people coming up and the standard has been brought up,” Thompson said. “Everybody is competitive, so it makes everybody else push and everybody come out harder.”

“I think people want to be known down here, we really want to be known so they're trying to get their name out as soon as possible and as best they can. I think that really impresses me,” Royal said.

The initial ascent

Each player knew early on in their ride that they were in store for big things.

“I got my first offer from Troy after my freshman year going into my sophomore year,” Thompson said. “Then more schools started adding on. Southern Miss came to a practice and offered me after that, so I knew I had something special and just had to keep going at it.”

“I enjoyed it a lot. I just had a dream come true,” Royal said of his recruiting road that started with a South Carolina offer in eighth grade. “I'm always excited when I get an offer from any school. That's an honor because they know, they were looking at me so I really enjoyed the whole process.”

The sigh of relief

When the coaster was finally slowing down to its conclusion, both shared an intimate moment with family members when they first revealed their college decision.

“My dad wanted me to commit off the bat. And I was like, I'm not sure,” Royal said. “Later on, I went to them and said, ‘Hey, I think I'm going to commit,’ and they said, ‘Are you for real,’ and they got all excited and stuff. Then I ended up committing that same day.”

“My uncle (is the first person I told). We went to camp that week, and the week after we went to Orlando, and then they (Alabama) gave me a call to say they offered me, and I told my uncle, and we both got excited that day,” Thompson said. “We had the whole family on vacation, so we told everybody and everybody was excited.”

The loop-the-loop

However, Thompson’s roller coaster ride wasn’t quite done yet as he flipped the script this summer and switched sides of the Iron Bowl rivalry with a verbal commitment to Auburn on July 29. At the Baldwin County football media day in Daphne on July 31, just days after he hinted at a freezing over in his ride at Gulf Coast Media’s Media Day, he explained what factors led to his decision.

“I looked at Nick Saban and Hugh Freeze, Nick Saban is a good coach and all the stuff he’s done in college football, but I know he specializes with DBs and my main position is receiver,” Thompson said. “I know Hugh Freeze has a background of developing receivers at a higher level.”

Next in line

Thompson and Royal know they aren’t the only ones riding a wild recruiting roller coaster from the area. Both brought up Daphne running back Nick Clark and Fairhope safety Ameyr Adams as other players they enjoy watching.

Each also shouted out teammates including Braden Jackson from Gulf Shores and Kolton Nero from Foley as other talented athletes who go to battle alongside them.

“If you want to do something, you've just got to put your mind to it. No matter what happens, no matter how long it's going to take, if you stay on that one thing for a long time then you're going to get it one day,” Royal said.

“Stay on the books, watch what you post on social media. Stay humble, don't get the big head, and always give back to the kids,” Thompson said. “Respect your parents. It will take you a long way because it's your character. Be genuinely nice to everyone because coaches will ask everybody you've been around how you act in person.”