Will RYE' curd?

Or

Will ree SHARD'?

Several million Alabama fans have been following kicker Will Reichard for five years. He got an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID season. It's highly unusual at Alabama to have fans intensely interested in the placekicker.

Over the decades, Alabama had gotten a reputation for not being a good field goal-kicking team. In fact, it had become a bit of a joke among the Alabama faithful that Alabama could not reliably kick field goals and just needed to go for it on fourth down. However, non-Bama-fans best not mention that to the Alabama family. It was an inside joke.

Bama went through a rough period on fourth down in field goal range. Alabama fans would cringe before each field goal attempt.

That rough period was over when Will Reichard left Hoover High School and drove down I-459 and I-59/20 to Tuscaloosa. Reichard quickly became Mr. Reliable. Mr. Automatic.

Fast forward five years. In his final (2023) season, Reichard has made 87% of his field goal attempts with the longest of 51 yards. He made 100% of his extra points. A total of 113 points, so far.

Reichard had already played four seasons at Alabama, had won a national championship and held most Alabama records. Why did he decide to stay for a fifth season?

"As I look back on my career, I'm very excited about what as a team we've been able to accomplish, and I just felt like I had more room to improve before moving on to the next level," Reichard told Sports Illustrated. "Honestly, I didn't want to leave this place. I've been super blessed to meet a lot of people here and build relationships that I've been able to build. There's a lot of people across the country that would love to play here, and there's just something I wanted to be able to come back and finish my career here."

Reichard and Alabama have now kicked their way into the national record books. Reichard is now the leading scorer in college football history. More points scored than anyone, anywhere, at any time. Not just at Alabama. Not just in the SEC. In the NCAA. In the nation. No one scored more points than Will Reichard. Not even prolific quarterbacks.

There's a line in the Alabama fight song, "Yea, Alabama" that has produced chuckles in the football world. Some commentators thought it a bit over-stated:

For Bama's pluck and grit have writ her name in Crimson flame.

Not anymore. Reichard's record-setting career has indeed written his name in Crimson flame – and in the NCAA record books.

Reichard has accumulated 539 points and counting. One more game to go. Assuming an Alabama win over #1 Michigan in the Rose Bowl, two more games to go. There is not another record to be broken in this closing chapter of the Will Reichard story at Alabama. There is nothing for Reichard to prove in the 2023-2024 College Football Playoffs except to help win yet another national championship for his alma mater. Yes, he is a graduate already with a master's degree.

And, by the way, Reichard also handles the kickoffs and is the backup punter.

So, with this level of accomplishment over five years at a position that had not been known for success at Alabama, how is it that there is a divergence in the way people pronounce Will Reichard's last name?

The majority of fans say, "Will ree SHARD." Emphasis on the last syllable. With sort of a French sound to it.

The rest say, "Will RYE curd." Emphasis on the first syllable. Sort of Germanic sounding, like REICH.

Even among people who share the same last name, Reichard, there is a split. Some say it one way, some the other.

TV announcers of Alabama games say RYE curd, so that should settle it. Not so fast. I heard Gary Danielson say RYE curd, and I have a low confidence level in his knowledge of football, particularly of Alabama football.

So, which is it? If you go out and ask people the correct pronunciation, half will tell you "RYE curd" and will be absolutely certain that they are right. The other half will tell you "ree SHARD' and will be absolutely certain that they are right. Note with great benefit that no one says, "I don't know."

Here's a hint to get the correct answer. On New Year's Day, listen to the Rose Bowl radio broadcast by Alabama's Chris Stewart. Even if you watch on TV, mute the sound and listen to the Chris Stewart play-by-play. He is a consummate professional. He knows Alabama. He will know. And you will know.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].

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