The No. 2 overall player in the recruiting class of 2019, Kayvon Thibodeaux had his pick of nearly every school to play college football.
Thibodeaux fielded offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida State and Florida, before committing to Oregon. Thibodeaux sat down with FOX Sports’ Joel Klatt Wednesday and revealed why he didn’t go to Alabama.
Oregon Ducks DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) reacts after making a tackle during a PAC-12 conference football game between the Oregon State Beavers and Oregon Ducks on November 27, 2021 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. (Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
“Do you know the stigmatism of Alabama education? It ain’t the West Coast,” Thibodeaux said. “It ain’t Harvard.”
Thibodeaux meant to say “stigma”, not “stigmatism” or “astigmatism” (a common imperfection in the eye’s curvature).
The top player in the 2022 NFL Draft continued, saying head coach Nick Saban’s recruiting pitch didn’t mesh with him. The pitch, according to Thibodeaux, was that players want to play when they think they’re ready, not when Saban thinks they’re ready.
Oregon Ducks defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) before a college football game between the Oregon Ducks and the UCLA Bruins on October 23, 2021, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. (Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
To this date, every single one of Saban’s recruiting classes at Alabama has won a National Championship. Thibodeaux said that while that’s important, he had his sights on the bigger picture.
“You know what I sat back and thought about? I sat back and said what world do I want to be a part of? I said if I go to Alabama, I’m going to win national championships, literally,” Thibodeaux said. “But do I want to be a guy who’s known as a national championship winner or do I want to be a guy who’s known for being a part of the greatest organization in the world?”
In his mind, that organization is Nike, which has a stronghold on Oregon. Nike owner Phil Knight is an Oregon alumnus and donates millions each year to the university. The worldwide brand was just too much for Thibodeaux to turn down, as it is for many athletes.
Oregon Ducks defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) looks on after a college football game between the Oregon Ducks and the UCLA Bruins played on October 23, 2021 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
“What people don’t realize is that football is an American sport,” Thibodeaux said. “So, no matter how great Alabama is, you only play football in America, Canada and a couple other places. But a brand like Nike, I mean, for me it was like what brand associations do I want to be tied to?”
While Thibodeaux never reached the mountain top in Eugene, he did star on the Ducks’ defense for three seasons. Thibodeaux recorded 19 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss in 30 games for the Ducks. He was a two-time First-Team All-Pro in the Pac 12 (2020-21) and an unanimous All-American (2021).