By Luke Robinson
Alabama gets beaten up in the national media a good bit. A lot of those beatings we earn. Generally in education Alabama ranks in the mid-40s (suck on that South Dakota!) Some of our more pious high-ranking politicians get caught with their hands in very friendly, younger, more buxom cookie jars. A Youtube video about a possible crack-addled leprechaun in Mobile has more than 23 million views (and Arrested Development gets cancelled?) Just last July I saw a story on al.com about a 39-year-old man who was brought up on charges for sexually violating his wife’s 2-year-old male Shih Tzu (oddly named Buster).
For all of the jokes that can be (and are still being) made at our expense, I am holding my head high as an Alabama native today. At the risk of sounding like a cliché country song lyric, our lil’ ole state has given me a lot to be proud of recently. Well, sports-wise anyway. (I won’t even use the likes of Jesse Owens, Evander Holyfield, Bo Jackson, Hank Aaron, Carl Lewis, Charles Barkley, Satchel Paige, or Terrell Owens in this argument, as I am focusing more on recent history.)
Alabama and Auburn have been winning at unprecedented levels. They are racking up more rings than Saturn’s wife. (You see, Saturn is a planet with rings and it wants to keep its wife hap…you know what? Forget it.)
Say what you want about some of his other rumored exploits, Alabama native Jameis Winston was just selected first overall in the NFL Draft and that is one hell of an accomplishment. Big man Demarcus Cousins is widely considered to be one of the NBA’s best talents. The Heavyweight boxing champ of the world, Deontay Wilder, is from Tuscaloosa. Longtime NFL QB Philip Rivers is from Athens. Birmingham native Will Wilcox went from potentially giving up on golf in 2006 to earning his PGA card. We can even count Channing “Magic Mike” Tatum from Cullman if we include stripping as a sport…And according to my B-Metro article-research expense report from The Furnace, I most certainly do.
Chew (tobacco) on this, though: There are six states across this country with former high school players that were drafted by the NFL. Georgia, Florida, California, Texas, Ohio, and AL-UH-BAM-UH! That stat only considers guys who played high school in that state; not guys like Landon Collins or Amari Cooper who came to UA from Louisiana and Florida, respectively. That’s one hell of an accomplishment considering those other five states are all in the top nine of the U.S. when it comes to population.
More than anything, that fact is a testament to our statewide high schools and the AHSAA in general. I know you already knew this next statement, but we really do take football seriously. When you consider an astonishing three of Rivals.com’s top nine players for 2016’s signing class are from Alabama, I would say the trend of this state’s having 10 or more draft picks should continue for awhile.
Alabama’s talent pool is also a reason I am very high on another SEC team in the not-too-distant future: Mississippi State. MSU coach Dan Mullen has certainly noticed that Alabama cranks out talents like Conecuh County cranks out sausage. I wrote about Shades Valley’s Keith Mixon, who signed with the Bulldogs last February, several months ago in this very space. I also mentioned several of the Alabama cohorts that ventured to Starkville with him.
In a few years, when those Yellowhammer State natives begin to flourish, we will probably all wonder why our in-state teams didn’t do more to keep them. Of course, Alabama and Auburn will probably each have more national titles by then, but still; my bet is Mississippi State has a few Alabama-native All Americans before it’s said and done.
So what if comedians always joke that Alabamians can’t read? As this article has proven, reading is way overrated. So what we rank 47th in math? You don’t need to be embarrassed that you need a calculator to play Blackjack at a casino or that your husband has to invite a naked friend over to count to 42 anymore!
The bottom line is the next time someone tells you that their state’s high school football team can beat an Alabama squad, you can truthfully tell them, “Naw man… that’s unpossible!”