"Joe...Willie...Namath" (said in a Howard Cosell voice)
Heading into the new NFL season brings the thoughts of many of the 'Bama faithful to those players who've gone on to fame and glory in the professional ranks.
The history of Tide players in the pro ranks throughout the years is rich and storied enough to fill out an All-Star team.
So we thought we would do just that.
Here then, is the University of Alabama All-Pro Team.
The Wizard of Oz
Few tight ends have played the game with the combination of finesse and power as did Ozzie Newsome.
The eternal Cleveland Brown, Ozzie continued his brilliance in the pros that began at Leighton in northwest Alabama and continued at Tuscaloosa.
Not only is he the all-time reception leader at tight end for the Browns, Ozzie is also fourth on the all-time reception list.
After 13 seasons on the field, he followed the team when it moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens, working for the Modell family in the front office.
He was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1999.
How quickly we forget how good he was.
Most 'Bama fans agree that the greatest Tide player at tackle was Chris Samuels
Samules continued his stand out effort by playing for the Redskins in the pros for 10 seasons. The third overall pick in the 2000 draft, Samuels completed his Alabama career as an Outland Trophy winner.
For the Redskins, all Samuels did was go to six Pro Bowls and become the team's captain. Playing in a spot where few Alabama standouts became successful as professionals, Samuels retired to go into coaching.
The Great Warrior.
John Hannah defined the position of the modern offensive lineman. He was the quintessential warrior at the same time, bridging the gap between the smash mouth, blood and guts game of the past and the finesse, almost intellectual game of the present.
Hannah slaved for the New England Patriots back before they became the powerhouse they are today (although the Pats did make the Super Bowl in Hannah's last year, only to meet the Chicago Bears).
During his time in Boston, Hannah made 10 All-Pro teams and played in nine Pro Bowls. He won numerous offensive lineman of the league awards as well.
Though all his years of pounding, Hannah rarely missed a game.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. His bio on the HOF website calls him "the premier guard of his era."
"The Premier Center of His Time."
Dwight Stephenson played in two Super Bowls and three AFC Championship games. Ask Dan Marino how he would have managed to pass for over 5,000 yards in 1983 if Stephenson had not anchored the O-line.
According to the NFL, Stephenson "was universally recognized as the premier center in the NFL." He earned both All-Pro and All-AFC honors for five straight years.
He was named the AFC or NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year several times, and he started four Pro Bowls in a row.
Stephenson was a 1998 Hall of Fame inductee.
If you retire from the NFL after 11 seasons and hold 18 records when you do so, yeah, you'll probably be in the Hall of Fame.
That's what Don Hutson did.
Playing for the Green Bay Packers (and famed coach Curly Lambeau, see picture), Hutson not only excelled at receiver, but he also played safety and was the team's kicker for several years.
Think about these stats: 99 receiving touchdowns (a record that stood for 44 seasons), first receiver to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season, first to catch more than 50 passes in a season and 881 total points scored.
Not bad at all.
Oh, the guy at the other end of the line for 'Bama did pretty well after his playing days were over in Tuscaloosa too.
Just look at the complete helplessness of that DB in this photo. Sheesh.
Oh, there might be some out there who think some other 'Bama back might be more deserving.
But we think Shawn Alexander was the best professional football running back the Tide has ever produced. We also think he might have been one of the top five running backs in pro history if he'd've had a stable offensive line his entire pro career.
Alexander's 2005 career is one for the record books. He led the league in rushing yards, touchdowns, points and Pro Bowl votes.
He also won the NFL Most Valuable Player award that year.
Injuries slowed him in later years, but he still ended his pro career only a few yards shy of 10,000 yards rushing and had 112 touchdowns.
Check out the rings.
OK, we thought about Namath and his brashness and gunslinging ways.
We seriously considered The Snake because he could lead comebacks and won as many Super Bowls as Joe Willie.
But we couldn't overlook some intangibles and tangibles about Bart Starr.
First, he won the first two Super Bowls. That's after winning multiple NFL championships.
Besides, he called his own plays throughout his career. Think Greg McElroy on the pro level.
And he could not only manage a game, but he could also hit his targets. Sure, he was surrounded by a cast of (other) Hall of Famers, but you must ask if Green Bay would have won as many titles as they did without him.
We think not.
One of the greats.
Let's set the record straight.
While Penn State claims to be Linebacker U, Alabama is the school that produces some of the greatest professional linebackers the game has ever seen.
Consider this trio of pro linebackers: Woodrow Lowe, Cornelius Bennett and Derrick Thomas.
Can you think of three better who all went to the same school?
Thomas is in the Hall of Fame. Bennett led defenses in five (five!) Super Bowls. Lowe is considered to be one of the greatest Chargers ever to wear the San Diego uniform.
That's a fearsome threesome for sure.
"Teague...stole the ball!"
Much like the success Alabama's linebackers have had in the pros, the defensive backs from the Crimson Tide are well represented in the NFL.
George Teague continued his stellar play for years in the NFL with several clubs, as did Antonio Langham and Jeremiah Castille.
Many, however, point to Don McNeal as the best professional defensive back the Capstone has produced. All McNeal did was be named the Dolphins' player of the year two times and play in two Super Bowls.
By the way, those two years were the same. That says a great deal about his importance to those teams and their successes on the field.
"How do you like it, how do you like it?" Anyone get that vague musical reference?
Chris Mohr made a career out of punting in the NFL. He played for parts of three decades, punting in the Super Bowl a couple of times and playing everywhere from Montreal to Tampa Bay, Buffalo to Atlanta.
But he was longest with the Bills, where he stayed most of the 1990s, during the Glory Days of the franchise.
His consistency and professionalism made him a team and fan favorite.
He still holds several Bills career records (despite the Bills having the excellent Brian Moorman).
Yeah, we match up pretty well historically against almost everybody.
Think about putting this team of 'Bama pros against the professionals of, say, Ohio State or Oklahoma or Michigan.
We'd take that bet.
Seems that the Tide would do pretty well against almost everybody. This list of great Alabama professional football players, at their prime, were among the NFL's greats.
They make us proud.