Chasing a scholarship worth it?

Pelham High School senior Justin Forehand was one of 12 high school football players in Shelby County to earn a Division I football scholarship this year out of 845 total players. (Reporter Photo /Jon Goering)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

The odds were stacked against Pelham High School senior Justin Forehand among his Class of 2012 counterparts.

Statistics told him roughly less than one percent of the more than 7 million high school student-athletes in the nation this season would have their college tuition paid for through an athletic scholarship.

Forehand defeated the odds Feb. 1 on National Signing Day.

Forehand is one of the few thousand high school student-athletes who will earn a full ride through an athletic scholarship, which will cover all costs associated with attending college, including books, tuition and room and board, at a four-year institution in the Class of 2012.

Tommy Forehand, Justin’s father, said his son is fortunate, but he also put in the extra time and effort needed to warrant a scholarship.

“It’s been a blessing that he got (a scholarship),” Forehand said. “He has worked really, really hard. Justin gets up at 4 a.m. for 5 a.m. workouts every day.”

In addition to time, money spent to help Forehand polish his athletic skills in football, baseball and basketball from an early age paid off with a full athletic scholarship to attend UAB and play college football for the Blazers at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I level.

While Forehand, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound offensive tackle, will attend college on a full athletic scholarship, each year several Shelby County student-athletes routinely sign “equivalency” scholarships, also known as “partial” scholarships, which may cover part of tuition and, or only, books.

Forehand was the rare success story. Forehand was one of only 12 players in Shelby County this season, out of 845 total high school football players, to earn a full scholarship at a Football Bowl Subdivision school. Forehand will be one of 149 student-athletes on a “head count” scholarship in the fall at UAB, including one of 85 football players.

Football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, women’s tennis and women’s gymnastics student-athletes are the only Division I sports where every team member must be offered a full ride.

Student-athletes participating in other sports can be offered a full scholarship, but coaches are limited on the number of full scholarships available and routinely split the scholarship into partial scholarships among several players on the team.