With a trip to Alabama, the Talk of Fame Network continues its series on six college programs that produce the most NFL talen.
The Crimson Tide this year had 10 players invited to the combine and may place as many as six in the first round of April’s NFL draft. One guy with a special insight why is the Talk of Fame’s guest this week: Baltimore Ravens’ general manager Ozzie Newsome.
Ozzie was a four-year starter at Alabama under Bear Bryant before beginning a Hall-of-Fame career with the Cleveland Browns. During his time as a four-year starter with the Tide, Newsome played on three teams that went 11-1 each, while he averaged 20.3 yards per catch, an SEC record that stood 20 years.
Bryant once called Newsome “the greatest end in Alabama history,’’ but when Newsome was playing for him it was a different story. Newsome believes that’s one reason Alabama so consistently produces top NFL talent.
“It was challenging, but fun (playing for Alabama),’’ Newsome explained. “The challenge is (that) every year another five-star recruit is coming in to compete for your job. That helped you never get complacent.
"If you got complacent, someone would pass you up. When you go from a freshman to a sophomore you think you’ve conquered the world. (Bryant) goes, ‘Not yet young man.’ He challenged us in a way you understood why he was doing it. And you accepted it.’’
Newsome says the same attitude exists at Alabama today under Nick Saban. It's why, when the Ravens draft an Alabama player, Newsome believes he knows what he’s getting.
“Nick does a very good job of molding them into complete players,’’ Newsome said. “They understand what work is. They understand what competition is. They’re accustomed to practicing against players who are their equal. I have an intimate knowledge of Alabama players.’’
One such player was Lee Roy Jordan, the former All-American linebacker who was named MVP of the 1963 Cotton Bowl after making 31 tackles in his final college game. Jordan would go on to make five Pro Bowls, play in 10 NFC championship games and three Super Bowls and retire as the Dallas Cowboys’ all-time leading tackler. All that success began in Alabama playing for Bryant, where he met a quarterback he never forgot.
“Joe Namath was a sophomore when I was a senior,’’ Jordan recalled. “Joe was the best passing quarterback I’d ever seen in college or the pros. He was our starting quarterback as a sophomore, and we almost won back-to-back national championships. We lost one game my senior year by one point, or we would have … That was pretty interesting.’’
So is a nostalgic look back at the NFL with retiring Bengals’ PR director Jack Brennan, who served them for 23 years and who, prior to that, covered the team for nine seasons. Brennan retires this week and sits down with our hosts to review his career with the Bengals.
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