As On Field, Tide Dominates Draft

Alabama has rolled through decades building football tradition. Crimson Tide Hall of Fame coaches Wade, Thomas, Bryant, and Stallings are duly recognized for their contributions. An annual trek by Nick Saban to the NFL Draft held at Radio City Music Hall in New York is among the rituals that contributes manifestly to continued Bama glory.

For two consecutive years the Tide head coach has held court in Manhattan trumpeting the first round selections who wore crimson and white. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the names of four Alabama players within the first 25 picks, tying the one-year-old Alabama school record for first round selections. Two players reached high water marks relative to their positions.

Trent Richardson, tabbed by the Cleveland Browns with the third choice, became the highest drafted running back in school history, surpassing Wilbur Jackson, chosen ninth by the San Francisco 49ers in 1974. (Bobby Humphrey was taken third in the 1989 Supplemental Draft.)

Safety Mark Barron, the seventh overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, supplanted 1993 first round draftee George Teague a 29th choice of the Green Bay Packers.

Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, chosen 17th by the Cincinnati Bengals, and linebacker Dont'a Hightower, a New England Patriots 25th pick, completed the first round Bama quartet.

A record number of 26 prospects from around the country were invited to the 2012 NFL Draft. Alabama had a record five in attendance poised to walk across the stage to be greeted by the commissioner, pose for photos, and address the media.

Linebacker Courtney Upshaw, projected by many as a first round draft choice and among the five invited to New York, was selected by the Baltimore Ravens early in the second round, 35th overall.

Defensive tackle Josh Chapman and defensive back DeQuan Menzie were fifth round choices. Chapman was selected by the Indianapolis Colts 136th overall and Menzie by the Kansas City Chiefs 146th. Brad Smelley was the last Tide player off the board, going to the Cleveland Browns in the seventh round at number 247. The seven-round 2012 NFL Draft total of eight Alabama players equaled the 1987 school record which occurred over 12 rounds. Alabama had more players drafted than any other school in 2012. The Tide also holds the distinction of having the most first round NFL draftees in SEC history with 45 total going back to Riley Smith in 1936.

The depth of talent was evident for the last three seasons. School records fell over the course of the recent three-year draft span. Twenty Alabama players were chosen by NFL teams during 2010-2012 exceeding the 17 taken from 1993-95. Prior to the 1967 Common Draft between the AFL and NFL, 24 Tide players were picked from 1943-45. Ten first round selections beginning in 2010 eclipsed the previous high of five chosen from 1978-1980. The three-year best prior to 1967 was a trio of Tide players, all being chosen in the 1948 draft.

Seven Crimson Tide players signed free agent contracts. They are:

Darius Hanks (Washington Redskins), Jerrell Harris (Atlanta Falcons), Phelon Jones (Washington Redskins), Marquis Maze (Pittsburgh Steelers), Alfred McCullough (Baltimore Ravens), William Vlachos (Tennessee Titans) and Alex Watkins (Tennessee Titans).

Nick Saban has erected a twin-tiered empire. Alabama has dominated the competition winning two national championships in the last three years. Pervasive promotion of the program broadcast nationally with every NFL Draft shadows the on-the-field success and helps with future success. Each time the name of an Alabama player is announced from the podium at Radio City Music Hall, a minimum 30-second commercial ensues from the football pundits pontificating the merits of a Nick Saban coached athlete. The overall effect was equivalent to a can't-miss sports infomercial for Alabama football as the best path to the NFL.

The layers of praise, of course, heighten the towering presence of the Alabama program in the minds of potential recruits. Alabama has become synonymous to prospects as the route to Radio City Music Hall on draft day.

Speaking of building, former Alabama All-America center Dwight Stephenson was present in Manhattan for the gridiron auction known as the NFL Draft. The two-time national championship member (1978 and 1979), is president/CEO of D. Stephenson Construction, Inc., a very successful South Florida company. The Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee was one of 33 legendary NFL alumni representing a team to make the second and third round announcements. The former Miami Dolphin is a member of the Orange Bowl Committee, host of the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

Stephenson said the current architect of Alabama's football program, Nick Saban, reminds him of another successful Tide coach, Paul W. Bryant, famous for building character while winning national championships. Similar core principles and values were preached by both, producing dynasties in different eras.

Nick Saban comments from Radio City Music Hall 2012 NFL Draft

BamaMag Top Stories