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Malik Puryear said his NFL aspirations were part of the reason that he decided to recently commit to signing with UAB in December.

Puryear is a 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive lineman from Coahoma (Miss.) Community College, who lines up mostly on the edge. His specialty, Puryear said, is getting after the quarterback, which has been an emphasis at UAB.

"I've seen guys like Jordan Smith get drafted and Alex (Wright), who just got drafted last year," Puryear said. "They're getting d-linemen out of there, so it's a perfect place for me to get to the next level from there."

He is one of three linemen to recently commit to playing for the Blazers, joining Kilgore College offensive linemen Leon Bell and Wallace Unamba. Puryear said his commitment to interim head coach Bryant Vincent and the UAB program was cemented during an official visit to the Children's Harbor Homecoming win over Middle Tennessee.

"I really loved the atmosphere when I went there for a game," Puryear said. "When I first got there, I felt a genuine vibe from the coaching staff. Everybody was happy to see me, excited to see me. That had a lot to do with my commitment to UAB. I saw the o-lineman (Unamba) from Kilgore. I was like, 'Wow, UAB is bringing in some pretty big guys.' They're moving to the American Conference next year, Coach Vincent is bringing in some big players."

This is the second time that Puryear has gone through the recruiting process. He attended High Point Christian Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina, and chose Wake Forest after high school. Puryear committed after visiting during a Junior Day but said he was unable to take an official visit because of COVID-19 protocol. He said he didn't have the opportunity to take a first-hand look at the depth of his position.

"When I got there, I saw there were a lot of d-ends," Puryear said. "My coach told me I had to wait my time. I really wanted to go somewhere I could compete to play right away. I just decided to go play JUCO and find a new home from there."

He certainly didn't choose the easiest path.

"It's definitely a serious grind, not having all of the things we had at Wake Forest – like recovery, treatment and everything," Puryear said. "It's really just having to dawg it out and be strong through this JUCO process. It is hard, but that's not a problem. Getting out of there is the biggest part. That's why I'm happy about UAB."

Puryear said the recruiting process was much different in junior college.

"I say in high school, they are looking at it more like a long-distance run," Puryear said. "After JUCO, you're getting recruited to come play right away. It's really no time to develop or anything like that. My main goal was just to find somewhere I was needed, and UAB had a need for d-linemen. I knew I had a chance to play."

Puryear is the ninth player to commit with Vincent as the interim head coach. The first six were high school prospects.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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