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32 Days ‘Til Kickoff: C.J. Mosley

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The rare four-year star at the University of Alabama, C.J. Mosley endeared himself to fans with his work ethic, performance and championships.

C.J. Mosley offered opponents no quarter during his four years in Tuscaloosa.
C.J. Mosley offered opponents no quarter during his four years in Tuscaloosa.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Alabama is Linebacker U, despite the protestations of universities located in more northerly climes. The list of star Tide linebackers is long and predates the Saban area, and many of those Crimson Tide stalwarts have gone on to productive careers in "the League."

Few, however, have put together more complete careers at the Capstone than former Sam linebacker C.J. Mosley. A tenacious defender who wasn't even a regular starter until the latter half of his Tide career, Mosley was known for his incomparable ability to defend the pass and lead the defense from his inside linebacker position.

In recognition of the mere 32 days remaining until the kickoff of the 2016 college football season, we remember fondly the man who wore number 32, the beating heart of two championship defenses, C.J. Mosley.

High School

Mosley was a legend in the Mobile, AL bedroom community of Theodore long before he stepped foot on the green grass of Bryant Denny Stadium. Most of this deserved reputation came from his athletic exploits for the Theodore Bobcats, where he was a multi-sport star for his hometown high school. Mosley played several sports (including football, basketball and track), and was more than adequate at all of them. As a track athlete, Mosley ran the 110m hurdles (in 16.15 seconds) and the 200m dash (in 24.33 seconds. He specialized in the high jump (1.8 meter personal best), the long jump (6.58 meters) and the triple jump (12.6 meters). All of these stats are particularly amazing considering Mosley performed these feats at a solid 225 pounds as a high school senior.

Though he was a well-rounded athlete, it was as a linebacker that he had the greatest success in Bobcat red. As a mere sophomore, Mosley broke onto the scene as part of a Bobcat team that made the first round of the AHSAA 6A state playoffs, recording 112 tackles, four sacks and an interception. His already high ceiling grew higher as a junior, when he broke the Theodore school record for tackles in a season with 176 (115 of those solos), with 17 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. That season earned Mosley a spot on the Alabama Sports Writers' Association All-State team, and rightly so.

While colleges had long salivated over Mosley's combination of speed, strength and football acumen, his performance as a senior cemented his place as one of the premier linebacker recruits in the class of 2010. Mosley eclipsed his own school record with 186 tackles (!), with seven sacks, five fumble recoveries and four interceptions. Mosley was the leader of a Bobcat team that finished the season 9-2 before falling to future teammate T.J. Yeldon and his eventual state champion Daphne Trojan team.

Mosley's senior season resulted in yet another ASWA All-State selection, and he was named the 6A Lineman of the Year. He played in the All-American Bowl and was rated the number two player in the state of Alabama behind another future teammate, Millbrook's Dee Milliner. Surprisingly, Mosley was only rated a four-star prospect at inside linebacker, and the sixth-ranked linebacker available in the class of 2010.

The College Years

Mosley didn't take long to prove his worth to Coach Nick Saban after stepping foot on the Tuscaloosa campus, earning playing time in all 13 games of the somewhat underwhelming 2010 Tide campaign. And Mosley wasn't just a bit player who came on in mop-up duty, he was inserted into live-fire situations during what was a rare off-year for the Crimson Tide in Saban's tenure. As a freshman, Mosley was responsible for 67 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sack, two interceptions returned for touchdowns and 10 passes defended.

Because of his athleticism and sideline-to-sideline closing ability, Mosley earned a reputation as excellent in coverage, and much of his playing time early in his career came on obvious passing downs. His 10 passes defended as a freshman speaks to this feature of his game, as he had the coverage ability of a safety in a legitimate linebacker's body.

Mosley's sophomore season was a bit of a disappointment for him as an individual because of an elbow injury sustained in the fourth game against Arkansas. On the season, he only accounted for 37 tackles (the lowest total of his career), 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and two passes defended. Mosley continued to split time on passing downs with fellow linebacker Nico Johnson, who excelled versus the run, while Mosley remained the passing down specialist.

That said, Mosley's Tide won the National Championship against the LSU Tigers in a rematch of their regular season tilt, and the Tide linebacker was able to play in much of the game despite once again being injured late while tackling LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson. But for the first time in his football career, Mosley was a champion.

Heading into his junior season in 2012, Mosley emerged as an every down linebacker for the Tide defense. His skill and ability were too great to be confined to situational play, as he improved his performance against the run while retaining his elite coverage ability. Mosley became a leader of the Tide defense and was tabbed as an AP All-American, recording 107 tackles to lead the Tide defense. He was named the team MVP, and finished third in voting for the Butkus Award. As a junior, Mosley recorded 107 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions and a pick-six.

The 2012 season also culminated in a National Championship victory for the Tide over Notre Dame. In the game, Mosley outshined the Irish linebacker who had beaten him out for the Butkus Award, Manti Te'o, and with another championship ring, Mosley walked into the realm of legend in the pages of Tide football lore.

Heading into his senior season in 2013, Mosley was forecast to be a first-round draft pick in the coming NFL Draft, and he lived up to every bit of that hype. He recorded 108 tackles to once against lead the Tide defense, with nine tackles for loss, two interceptions (returned for touchdowns, no less), five passes defended and one forced fumble. Mosley was on the list of finalists for nearly every individual defensive award, including the Butkus, Bednarik and Lombardi awards. He was named first-team All-SEC, as well as once again being named an All-American.

Though the 2013 season ended on a less than positive note, Mosley celebrated a career that saw his Tide teams win two consecutive National Championships, and Alabama was one (awful, horrendous, egregious...pick your adjective) play from playing for a third in 2013.

The NFL

Following a stellar collegiate career, Mosley was projected as one of the best linebackers available in the 2014 NFL Draft. Those forecasts proved true, as Mosley was the 17th overall pick in the first round, picked by the Baltimore Ravens. Mosley was tailor-made for the Ravens' "defense first" philosophy, and he joined fellow former Tide LB Courtney Upshaw on the Ravens roster.

As a rookie, Mosley exceeded even the loftiest of expectations. He recorded 133 tackles as a rookie, which included a 14 tackle performance against Indianapolis in which he led all defenders in tackles. He also intercepted Colts QB Andrew Luck for his first career interception in that game, one of two he recorded in his rookie campaign. To add to that stat line, Mosley had three sacks, eight passes defended and one forced fumble in the 2014. He had his first career sack against New Orleans in Week 12.

Those hefty stats put him in elite company, as he was selected to the Pro Bowl, the first Raven to ever earn that designation in his rookie season. He was also the runner-up for NFL Rookie of the Year honors.

There was little drop-off in 2015, as he posted 117 tackles, four sacks, seven passes defended and one forced fumble. He also scored his first career touchdown in the pro ranks after covering an Andy Dalton fumble against Cincinnati.

Two years into his pro career, C.J. Mosley has lived up to the hype doled upon him as a Tide senior. Few who watched him for four years at Alabama doubted he would excel in the professional ranks, and with two seasons under his belt, Mosley will likely continue his upward trajectory for years to come.

(To see some highlights of C.J. Mosley's Tide career, click here. Here are a few highlights from Mosley's brief time thus far in the NFL. Finally, watch C.J. (and Eddie Lacy) stunt all over the Fightin' Irish here...you know, just for fun.)