This time last year, the Alabama Crimson Tide didn't have a single starting quarterback in the NFL. Despite Tua Tagovailoa being drafted 5th overall by the Miami Dolphins and the Philadelphia Eagles spending a second-round pick on Jalen Hurts, both were solidified as backups to start the 2020 season.
But in 2021, three quarterbacks from the University of Alabama will start Week 1 in the NFL, Tagovailoa with Miami, Hurts with Philly and Mac Jones, the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, with the New England Patriots.
It's yet another milestone in the career of Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. When Tagovailoa was selected in the Spring of 2020, Saban had sent a 1st rounder from every offensive and defensive position into the league. And even though Alabama had long taken over as the program with the most active professionals, there was still a void at quarterback.
Now that these three signal-callers will lead their respective teams on September 12 and beyond, Saban expressed his pride in his quarterbacks and the staff that helped build them.
"I think all three of those guys did an outstanding job when they were here," Saban said. "Happy to see that they're getting an opportunity to play and start at the next level. I never really had any issue thinking that they would not have successful NFL careers. Now they have the opportunity to show how successful they can be. They all worked hard. They worked hard and made tremendous improvement while they were here. I think it's a reflection on some of the really good quarterback coaches that we've had here, and some of the good offensive coordinators that we've had here to help them continue to develop as players."
Each quarterback left an indelible mark upon the program's history, each winning a national championship in some fashion, usually the exciting kind.
Jalen Hurts began as an SEC Freshman of the Year in 2016. Known primarily as a runner, Hurts developed under QB coach Dan Enos in 2018 and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to become a much more refined passer before finishing his career at Oklahoma where he was a Heisman finalist.
As for Tua, the all-time career passing touchdowns leader made his mark when he took over for Hurts in the 2017 national championship as a freshman against Georgia. Tagovailoa found DeVonta Smith down the far sideline in overtime and became a legend overnight. Injuries derailed his career, as did a brutal loss to Clemson in the 2018 national championship. Nonetheless, he became the highest-drafted quarterback in Alabama history.
Mac Jones was the odd man out his whole career until, all of a sudden, he wasn't. He was never expected to be the starting quarterback at Alabama, but when his time came he took full advantage. He had to wait his turn, but the work he put in behind the scenes allowed him to be the most accurate quarterback in a single season in college football history.
Unfortunately, the Eagles aren't scheduled to play the Patriots or Dolphins this season.
"So, I'm excited," Saban said. "I don't get to see them play on Sundays, but I'm excited to certainly find out how well they do. And we wish them all the best and the best of luck. I'm very hopeful that they'll all do extremely well."
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