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14 Days ‘Til Alabama Football: Big play Robert Lester

When the Tide needed a turnover, Lester was there.

Mississippi State v Alabama
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We frequently talk about the stalwarts in that 2008 Alabama recruiting class: Julio Jones obviously comes up, as do Dont’a Hightower, Mark Ingram, Courtney Upshaw, Barrett Jones, Marcell Dareus, Mark Barron and other fixtures in Bammer lore. All of these players not only revitalized Alabama, but the drew the blueprint for how the position would be played at Alabama. Alabama fans still even talk about the ones that got away (Melvin Ray,) the busts (Tyler Love, B.J. Scott,) the underachievers (Jerrell Harris,) and the quiet studs overshadowed on their own team (Damian Square comes to mind.)

Yet, there’s a name often overlooked in that ‘08 class. Overshadowed by his Foley teammate, forgotten for the blue-chip defenders and the recruiting coups on offense, Robert Foster would turn out to be as formidable in his own way as anyone in that signing class. And, as with the other great performers, he would help define what Nick Saban expected from the position.

Alabama v Arkansas Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Lester did not have the high ratings coming out of Foley High -- he was just a 3-star, and ranked the 27th safety prospect. Most of the interest he attracted were from serviceable-but-down Power 5 schools. But, two legendary coaches were apparently better evaluators than the recruiting services: Alabama’s Nick Saban and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops both offered Lester. Their attention was merited.

At Alabama, the 6’2” 205-pound Lester was a beast. While he didn’t possess all-world speed, Lester was an exceptional coverage safety, making up for that speed with great anticipation, good recovery, an ability to fight for the ball, and a great jam when asked to press. He also possessed an uncanny knack for forcing turnovers and being in the right place at the right time, be it in coverage, rushing the passer, or punishing running backs.

Lester saw limited time his freshmen year coming off the bench. But, for the next three years, the incredibly-healthy Lester would start and play in every game for the Tide. His stat sheet is the dossier of a born play-maker: 131 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 10 PBUs, 19 passes defensed, 2 QB hits, 2 FR, 1 FF, 1 blocked kick, and 14 interceptions. The eight interceptions in Lester’s sophomore year were tied for the second-most in a single season and led the nation that year. Lester’s 14 career interceptions are tied for third in Crimson Tide history.

Despite such a great stat sheet, Lester never received the acclaim he should have. He never made an All-American team, never won an individual award or national award, and he only received second-team All-SEC honors twice.

But, for those three years, Lester was a terror, setting the bar for Strong Safety play under Nick Saban and helping to fuel a string of all-stars at the position.