In 2010 the Alabama Crimson Tide scored two first-rounders in the NFL draft and several other players were drafted.
Those numbers were expected, but what has really impressed many is the number of players who signed free-agent contracts after the draft.
Not getting drafted is not the career death sentence it once was. The NFL draft at one time had 12 rounds. Back then guys picked in later rounds had only a small chance of sticking on a roster.
In 1994 it was shortened to seven rounds, leaving the remaining players to fend for themselves. In many cases, though, this allows the player to pick a team that has weaknesses at his position or runs a system suited his style of play.
Outside linebacker Corey Reamer didn't sign a free-agent contract at all after the draft, but he did get a “tryout” with the Jets.
Many had debated the case of Reamer because he lacks great strength or the speed you see at the next level, but against the best competition in college Reamer was always near the football and made big play after big play.
For instance, it was Reamer who stuffed the hole that Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy was trying to run through just before Alabama lineman Marcel Darius slammed into him, ending his day and possibly the Longhorns' chance at winning the championship.
Apparently Reamers' ability was more than just smoke and mirrors, as he was immediately signed to a free-agent contract after his tryout with the Jets. In fact, Reamer so impressed head coach Coach Rex Ryan that he immediately mentioned him twice at the start of post-practice press briefings.
Another Alabama overachiever is jack linebacker Eryk Anders. Anders' long-shot career with the Tide reached its pinnacle when he decked the second Longhorn quarterback and forced the fumble that ended their chances entirely.
Anders begins yet another long-shot career with the Browns, who signed him to a free-agent contract. Anders isn't the biggest or strongest player, but if he can utilize his quickness on special teams and in pass-rush duties, he just might have a chance.
Defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington is a hard-nosed defensive lineman who has played nose, tackle, and end. He signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Washington lacks great speed for the pass rush, but his run-stuffing abilities might give him a shot in a backup roll.
Of note to recruiting fanatics is the name Titus Ryan. While researching this story I noted he has popped up on the Dallas free-agent list.
Titus Ryan, a Tuscaloosa native, was a high school football legend. Possessing athletic abilities that jumped off the charts, Alabama fans were frothing at the mouth to see him on the field. Ryan was part of two or three different signing classes depending on different lists but never qualified.
Finally, after a short college career at tiny Concordia College, he snagged on with Calgary and Winnipeg of the Canadian Football League. Now, finally at the age of 26, Ryan brings his blinding speed to the Dallas Cowboys in an attempt to make the team as a return man and backup receiver.
At a recent minicamp Ryan was pulling away from the coverage in pass routes. Reporter Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News called Ryan “by far the fastest player on the field.” Alabama fans can only shake their head in wonder at what could have been.
Tight end Colin Peek signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Peek has little chance of starting thanks to the presence of Tony Gonzalez, possibly the best tight end in football. But many feel he could win the No. 2 job.
Fortunately for Peek, his linemate at Alabama, Mike Johnson, was drafted in the fourth round and will be fighting right alongside him for playing time.
Placekicker Lee Tiffin signed a contract with the Cleveland Browns. Most every team brings in kickers every camp. Even if the Browns don't need one, Tiffin's performance in the preseason will determine if he gets a shot or heads back home to Red Bay. His famous father Van Tiffen managed to stick only one year in the NFL.
Some notable absences from this list are safety Justin Woodall and running back Roy Upchurch. Woodall at least got a tryout with the Bears, and some have rumored a tryout with the Ravens for Upchurch, but both are obviously long-shots. Upchurch in particular has skills, but he has never been durable enough to stay on the field.
The list of players drafted and signed to free-agent contracts is a huge shift from virtually nothing just two years ago. The change shows the results of great recruiting but also great coaching by the Alabama football staff.
Alabama fans may have many more familiar faces to see on Sundays in the near future.