Dalvin Tomlinson doesn’t play a glamour position, though he wears a glamour number – 54 – in Alabama football history. The senior is a defensive lineman, who often plays more like a defensive tackle. He’s hard to see, and some believe he is underrated in the Crimson Tide’s star-studded defense.
Ryan Anderson, an outside linebacker who is one of those Alabama stars, agrees that Tomlinson “has been underrated for a long time, and he’s getting his chance now.
“Dalvin is a big part of this defense,” Anderson said. “He doesn’t get a lot of credit he deserves, but Dalvin is a monster. He’s been that way for a while. He can run, pass rush. Thursday we were talking and I thought he was like 280; he’s like 310. So he got up on the scale and I was like ‘Dang, he don’t look like it. He don’t play like it.’ He’s a freak man. He can run. Outside of Da’Shawn (Hand), he’s probably the fastest D-lineman we have. He’s big. Dalvin is a big-time player, man.”
Anderson added that, “Dalvin probably has the best hands on the team. I watch a lot of things he does with his hands, and I can’t really pick up on it’s just natural the stuff he does. I don’t know if he took jujitsu or something. It’s just so quick.”
Tomlinson, 6-3, is a fifth-year senior who has been a regular on the defensive line for three years, but a starter for the first time this year after playing behind Jarran Reed. He broke up six passes last year and added another against Ole Miss in Bama’s 48-43 win in Oxford last week.
Part of his pass-rushing technique is his good hands play, but he doesn’t know jujitsu.
Tomlinson said, “Pretty much hands for a defensive lineman are key. If you don’t use your hands, you’re not going to be successful. You use your hands every single play, and simply, if you don’t have good hand placement, you’re going to pretty much get blown off the ball by the offensive lineman and lose your block and lose your gap which leads to big plays by the offense.”
Tomlinson, who was an accomplished high school wrestler, thinks that may have helped him as a defensive lineman. “You learn leverage,” he said, “and that’s a big key to defensive line (versus) offensive line. So I feel like wrestling is probably the biggest sport that helped out.”
He was asked about his record. “I don’t exactly remember,” he said. “I want to say 120-2 (other accounts have it at 169-2). I had a few (wins by) forfeits.”
What about those two losses?
“The first one was my first-ever varsity match and I was nervous and lost by points,” he said. “And the second one I got disqualified for hip-tossing a dude onto his neck.”
Tomlinson was also a soccer goalie and said that may have helped him in football. “Just the quickness,” he said. “You have to have to react to the soccer ball coming in the goals, and that probably helped out a little bit too.”
As for being one of the fastest defensive linemen, he said, “That helps out a lot with the up-tempo teams we face.”
Tomlinson suffered an injured ACL as a freshman. “There was a lot of adversity I had to overcome,” he said. “I just had to keep working through it. Coach Saban teaches you to keep grinding and working hard good things are going to come to you. So now I’m playing a lot and I’m just going to keep grinding for my teammates.”
And he doesn’t feel underrated. “I don’t look at it from a media standpoint,” he said. “I’m just here to help my team out and help us get the win. As long as I’m helping my teammates out, I’m happy with that.”
Tomlinson hopes he has a future in the NFL, but if he doesn’t he’s taken care of business academically, already with two degrees. “If it doesn’t work out (for pro football),” he said, “I’ll go into financial planning.”
Ryan Anderson added this when asked if Tomlinson has a mean streak:
“Yes he does. Sometimes I don’t like talking to him. He gets tired, and he just wants to rest. We just want to call the game or something and he just gives me that look. I’m like ‘Oh ,yeah.’”