Well, here you go:
This week, to no one’s surprise, Bama’s Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Landon Collins joined the 18 early NFL enrollees who had gone before them in the Saban era at Alabama in announcing for the upcoming NFL draft. Cooper and Collins are virtual locks for the first round; Yeldon will go as high as runningbacks are taken at the next level (a runningback hasn’t been selected in the 1st round in two years).
Don’t miss this. Alabama has played at the highest level of football despite losing eighteen (“dieciocho”, for our spanish speaking friends) quality underclassmen to the NFL. Not a flash-in-the-pan, occasional good season. Every single year Bama loses impact players who could’ve made a difference in the upcoming season, and yet the Tide has won no less than 10 games, every year, since 2008. Thrice National Champions, thrice SEC Champs, and owners of 85 wins in that seven year span, averaging 12 a year.
All that despite losing 2-3 juniors a year to the draft. Why?
Again, because of this:
Again, don’t miss this. Notice a head coach, out front, promoting his players for a cause that directly impacts his team negatively for the coming year. At Alabama, recruits don’t see players making their NFL decisions via twitter, or through a released statement from their head coach.
No, all Nick Saban does is show prospective talent that at Alabama, we’ll win with or without you, but if you do join us, major NFL dollars are potentially only three years away. And, should you decide to take them, you don’t have to do so from the shadows.
I will never forget Auburn’s Nick Fairley having to travel to his Mobile high school to make his announcement. No sign of head coach Gene Chizik anywhere. Or, the ultimate Auburn idol of worship, Cam Newton, making his announcement under the cover of night, in the locker room as he seemingly tried to sneak in and collect a few of his personal things, reporters just waiting to stick microphones in his face.
And why couldn’t Sammie Coates leave with dignity after this season? An amazing talent, all we saw from Sammie was him mysteriously riding the pine in the Tigers’ bowl game loss. Maybe declaring for the draft early at Auburn means breaking a team rule. No wonder Duke Williams, good enough to make the leap right now, is scared to declare…leaving Auburn is a difficult task (Yet another sign of a cult).
No, at Alabama, things are done the right way, in the light of day, with intentions that are best for the player. Which is why as T.J. Yeldon leaves, 5-star runningback prospect Damien Harris of Berea, Kentucky, the top runningback in the country, committed to the Crimson Tide on Friday.
And the same for 5-star wide receiver Calvin Ridley, of Coconut Creek, Florida…the nation’s top receiver.
Most recruting services, again, tab the Tide with the top class in college football heading towards national signing day. Why? Again, because of this:
Top players want to play for a program that will put them first. Parents want their sons to play for a coaching staff that isn’t just trying to cover their collective tails.
And, still toting one of the highest graduation rates for its athletes in the country, families want to put their sons, grandsons, brothers and nephews in the hands of a school that can help them achieve more than they ever thought possible, or give them a real shot at the second chance they so desperately need (Mark Richt, how many players are you going to kick off your team before you actually help one of them??). Alabama has a coach who has demonstrated that he really does care about the player first, and his success second. Does yours?
Regardless, once again, Amari Cooper, Landon Collins and T.J. Yeldon show us why if you want to play at the highest level…and one day leave with dignity…that place is still in Tuscaloosa.