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A Salute to the 2016 Seniors: Dalvin Tomlinson — the versatile force to be reckoned with

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Tomlinson is as diverse a man on the field as he is off it.

SEC Championship - Alabama v Missouri Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

No one quite knew what to expect of Dalvin Tomlinson as a recruit out of McDonough, Georgia’s Henry County High School.

At 6’2, 270 he had the size to be an athletic defensive tackle. He also had the ability to shed a few pounds and play at strong-side defensive end, and some teams actively courted him for that position. It only burnished his athletic credentials that he was a terror on the wrestling mat, winning three state titles, and played soccer at Henry County too. That versatility and athleticism allowed the four-star lineman to receive offers from a host of traditional football powers in the SEC, ACC and Big Ten. But, it wasn’t just his play either: Dalvin’s academic excellence and all-around versatility as a student, artist, and musician also earned him offers from Harvard, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech.

In the end, however, Tomlinson took just two official visits: one to Georgia Tech, 30 miles from his home town, and one to Tuscaloosa. The day he informed his mother of his decision, and promised to get his degree, was the last he would spend with her — she passed away from complications relating to diabetes the following day. [His Player’s Forum piece is quite good, BTW. Give that a read.]

Dalvin’s playing career began on the bench -- he entered the 2012 season redshirting after surgery from a high school soccer injury. Unfortunately, 2013 would end much the same way as the 2012 campaign, on the bench after a knee injury in the Virginia Tech opener. He had four stops before leaving his season on the Georgia Dome turf.

The much-heralded prospect finally made his way into the defensive line rotation in 2014, showing off his bullrush on 2.0 sacks, and plugging the run at his interior position. He had 22 tackles, 5.5 of which were for a loss.

Southern Miss v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In 2015, on the deepest Tide front seven of the Saban era, Dalvin still rang up 34 tackles, had 6 passes batted down/PBUs to lead the team, and added four QB hurries. Based on his power and increasing production, Tomlinson entered 2016 on the Lombardi watch list.

The 2016 seasons saw Tomlinson truly come into his own as a starter at defensive tackle. Playing alongside big Da’Ron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Ryan Anderson, the Tide defensive line was hell on opponents. It was quietly anchored by Tomlinson inside, who again flashed his versatility. During his senior campaign, No. 54 tacked on 54 stops, 48 of which were against rushing attempts. He again showed his instinct against the pass, recording four PBUs from the interior, had seven sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, and threw in a forced fumble for good measure.

While he was not the recipient of any post-season awards, Tomlinson could have started earlier and been a star at nearly any other program in the country. He has truly come into his own as a player and in the weight room over the past few years at Alabama -- putting on another inch and clocking in at a svelte 310 pounds.

Depending on his combine and pro-day performance, Tomlinson could be the No. 2 interior lineman prospect of the draft and could make himself some extra money by moving into the mid-second round. He’s presently ranked as the 2nd or 3rd tackle prospect, with most draftniks projecting him at the bottom of the second to the third round. His past injury history may be used for contract leverage or talking head fodder, but he has remained healthy since that 2013 season, playing in 42 of 44 games his final three seasons at the Capstone. The team that drafts Tomlinson gets a force on the interior against the run and a smart player on passing downs.

He may never be a superstar, but it’s easy to see 54 having a solid, long career in the NFL. Just as it’s easy to see him having a successful career in any path he chooses.

As for that promise that Dalvin made to his mom? Tomlinson kept it. The fifth-year senior already has a degree in Finance, and he is earning his second bachelors in Financial Planning. He is scheduled to graduate in May.

Best of luck to Dalvin in all of his future endeavors, and thank you for the past five years. Roll Tide.