There was a day when you expected underclassmen to stay and finish their senior season at a school. But like the compact disc, answering machine and bag phone, that day has sailed.
On Thursday Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont’a Hightower did what most had expected them to do. The trio of juniors declared for the NFL draft, where in a few short months they will become millionaires, setting themselves and their families for life. According to reports, Hightower did not attend the presser because he was ill.
Was this really a tough decision?
The game they’ve spent their lives loving is about to love them back, with lots of zeros behind the prime numbers at the beginning of each paycheck.
You have to wonder if CJ Mosley’s injury on the same turf on which they were playing Monday night helped seal their decision? Though Mosley’s dislocated hip isn’t considered a serious, longterm injury, I wonder if Dont’a had momentary flashbacks to the Arkansas game of his freshman season, when a blown knee ended that campaign for him.
Another consideration, what else was left for these players to do? Win a third national championship ring? Do you realize how short the list is of players in the history of college football who own two natty rings?
Alabama head coach Nick Saban said at Thursday’s press conference that Dre and Trent still lacked 20 hours to graduate. If there is any disappointment for the coach it would be that they leave without having attained degrees. The man didn’t establish an academic center for his players not to take advantage of what’s offered to them while playing their way through school.
“Both promise me that they’ll return to finish their degrees,” Saban said in the presser.
But in terms of accomplishment and opportunity, these players declaring for the draft early makes about as much sense as me deciding not to walk in front of a freight train today. It is a no brainer.
Impressive would be the manner that Nick Saban helps a player make this decision, searching out their NFL futures with them with consultants to help them make the best call. I can’t imagine LETTING Richardson return, let alone offering his blessing. This is a major reason why the top talent in the nation comes to play at Alabama these days; unlike some schools, once you’re there, you’re not a slave to make that program successful. You’re own success is at the top of their agenda.
Impressive is players at a press conference accompanied by their head coach making their intentions to leave school early with that coach’s public blessing. Contrast this to the cover-of-night announcement made by Cam Newton last year, or Nick Fairley’s announcement hundreds of miles from campus.
Last year, Mark Ingram did it the right way. This year, Dre Kirkpatrick, Trent Richardson and Dont’a Hightower did the same.
These players will now join Courtney Upshaw, Josh Chapman, Mark Barron, DeQuan Menzie, Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, Brad Smelley and the Tide’s other seniors who will give it a go at the next level.
But perhaps most impressive is the way Nick Saban is able to use events like Thursday as a recruiting tool, gaining yet another edge on his competition.
Under Saban, 21 Alabama players have been taken in the NFL draft. Of that number 7 have gone in the first round: One in three. You have to think that amoung the names I just listed, there are five solid candidates to add their names to that list.
And it’s for that reason that the top names in college football’s prospects for tomorrow enter the picture at Alabama every year now under Nick Saban.
Names like Landon Collins. Cyrus Jones. TJ Yeldon. Deion Belue. Amari Cooper. Reggie Ragland. Eddie Williams, Kenyon Drake, Geno Smith and Dakota Ball.
Travell Dixon, Alphonse Taylor, Brandon Hill, Ryan Anderson and Brandon Greene. Darren Lake, Dillon Lee, Alec Morris, Caleb Gulledge, Adam Griffith, Denzell Devall and Casey Gladney.
Kurt Freitag, Chris Black, Darius Philon, Tyler Hayes and Justin Taylor.
And it’s for that reason that a junior coming out early to receive what he has earned shouldn’t be a surpise. It’s merely one of the many magnets making top talent choosing the Tide another no brainer.