With the exception of Kentucky basketball and its endless and unrivaled pipeline of talent, no college sports program produces more pro players than Alabama football.
That theme remained consistent after four Crimson Tide players were chosen in the first round of Thursday night’s 2017 NFL Draft in Philly.
This year's draft is the fifth that has featured four first-round selections from one SEC team. In 2005, there were four first-round picks from Auburn. In 2007, it was LSU. And in 2011 and 2012, it was Alabama.
The Alabama players picked on Thursday night were cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who went to the Baltimore Ravens at No. 16; defensive end Jonathan Allen, who went to the Washington Redskins at No. 17; tight end O.J. Howard, who went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 19; and controversial linebacker Reuben Foster, who went to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 31.
Alabama has had more players drafted into the NFL than any other school in the country (48) over the last six years and in the last ten NFL Drafts, according to businessinsider.com, Alabama has had 18 players taken in the first round, three more than the school with the second-most, the University of Florida.
Similarly, Kentucky’s pro production (19 draft picks) nearly doubles that of Syracuse and Duke, who place second with 10 NBA draft picks over the past half decade. Expect the Wildcats to put a handful of players into the NBA again this season.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Kentucky sideline stalker John Calipari both took over underachieving, legendary programs, revived their mystique and marketed and molded them into iconic factories, a minor league of sorts, for sure-shot pros to enjoy a couple of seasons of camaraderie before their lives becomes dominated by dollar signs and hardcore, in-the-trenches competition.
Both of these coaches had been around the block a couple of times before all of the stars aligned and they rose to the top of the game. They endured trial and error, were maligned at times and suffered some traumatic losses.
Calipari had already coached 17 NCAA Tournament-infested years with UMass and Memphis and fell just short of a title several times, before mastering the one-and-done era of college basketball. His Wildcats were the first team to have the top two picks in a single NBA draft (2012 - Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), then had a record four lottery picks in the 2015 draft.
Saban spent 11 seasons building strong programs at Toledo, Michigan State and LSU. Since coming to Alabama, Saban has three BCS Championships and a College Football Championship on his resume.
The SEC continues to assert itself as the dominant conference in the major college sports. The 12 first-round selections from the SEC on Thursday’s NFL Draft night were record-tying. The conference's high-water mark in the first round had been the 12 players picked during the 2013 draft.
With four players chosen so far this draft and two days remaining in the three-day, seven-round event, Alabama is just heating up.
Roll Tide! Roll!