What Separates Alabama Football Players in Eyes of NFL Scouts?
Late last April, the lights dimmed and the spotlight grew brighter as it directed to the podium, front and center on the stage. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took a stroll to welcome the audience in attendance in New York City and those watching on television.
Just as he had the year prior the commissioner would make that walk 32 more times that Thursday evening, four times declaring a University of Alabama prospect had been chosen. After being shut out entirely in 2008, the Crimson Tide have placed 11 players in the first round in the past four entry drafts-a feat many credit to the coaching in Tuscaloosa.
NFL scouts would agree.
With millions invested and jobs on the line, everyone from scouts to the highest level executives can't afford to be wrong when it comes to this annual high stakes game of poker. After all one bad draft class can set a franchise back for years, while consistent classes of contributors can ensure another year's paycheck and a chance at football's greatest prize-The Super Bowl.
When push comes to shove, there are plenty of workout warriors and plenty of draft eligible prospects that have their share of good tape. However there is something that today's Alabama players have, that many do not.
"They're so smart" ESPN the Magazine's Ryan McGee said. "When they start talking about football, they're talking football again-on a three year NFL level."
The reason Alabama's players are so smart is because they have one of the best teachers in the game. Nick Saban, who earned his stripes spending numerous years as an assistant in the National Football league doesn't hold back when it comes to his roster-demanding the same focus in the classroom he does on the field.
They say it is only under great pressure a piece of coal can be turned into a diamond. It is only under Saban pressure a recruit can turn into a prize in the eyes of NFL scouts.
"They (former players) tell these guys: the good news is if you can survive practice and a couple of years in the film room with Saban, when you get to the NFL, some of the most daunting tasks-they don't have to worry about that. They're used to hard work."
Now for Alabama's seniors and juniors Dee Milliner, Eddy Lacy and DJ Fluker the hard work has only continued. Dozens of NFL personnel flooded the practice field at the Hank Crisp Indoor Practice facility on Wednesday for what is expected to be one three Pro Day events on campus to see what the Crimson Tide had to offer. While Tide prospects went through the same drills as everyone else, scouts know that Alabama's prospects have a trump card in their back pocket.
Those three national championship rings probably don't hurt either.