For nearly a decade now, the diatribe has been that all Alabama players bust when they reach the pros. Fueled mostly by the early injuries and setbacks (like being a running back for a team that preferred passing with the NFL’s best QB of all time) from Heisman winner Mark Ingram and the utter failures of Trent Richardson, Rolando McClain, Terrance Cody, Chance Warmack, and Dee Milliner, the talking point became a trope repeated on every online message board on multiple levels of the sport.
Then Mark Ingram got good. And Julio Jones became the top receiver in the world. HaHa Clinton-Dix, Eddie Jackson, and Landon Collins are all in competition for the top safety in the league. Jarran Reed, Da’Ron Payne, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Jonathan Allen have all been forces along the defensive line. D.J. Fluker single-handedly took Seattle from one of the worst rushing attacks in NFL history to the league’s top rushing team. The Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens have nearly enough former Tide players between them to make a full starting lineup.
And then, last week, Kenyan Drake, Amari Cooper, and Derrick Henry made history.
With 7 seconds left and 69 yards to go, the Miami Dolphins were within 5 points of beating the insidious New England Patriots. It was an impossible task. The Patriots even put the monstrous Rob Gronkowski back near the endzone to be there to break up the final Hail Mary heave.
But the Fins had other plans, resorting to the tried-and-rarely-true hook and ladder play. Kenny Stills grabbed the curl despite tough coverage, and then spun the wrong way when looking for his pitch man. After a second of looking totally lost, he managed to get it to the correct man, who quickly lateraled again to the man behind him, #32.
Look out, Kenyan Drake can fly.
After a relatively quiet day in which the dominant Patriots shut him down, Drake yet again burst out for a play that will live on memories for the next 20 years. He pulled a hesitation move to fake another lateral, the accelerated out of orbit, slicing right through the middle of a scrambling New England defense. He looped around to the sideline with only Gronk between him and the endzone. The gigantic tight end may be the best in the business at winning jump balls, but he never had a chance at catching Kenyan Drake, who, by the way, can fly.
At the same time, another highly drafted Alabama offensive player was busy making Dallas relevant again. Amari Cooper was absolutely invisible this season at Oakland while head coach John Gruden was busy tanking the team. Cooper had gone from a budding superstar to just another Bama bust, until he was traded to a reeling Dallas Cowboys team. They’ve since gone 5-1, and from one of the worst offenses in the league to a very potent one.
Cooper has been a huge part of that, bringing a sort of confidence to the passing game that’s really propelled QB Dak Prescott forward.
But last Sunday was something different. Cooper didn’t just boost the offense— he transcended into a player that totally took over the game and won it.
A long touchdown from him late in the fourth gave Dallas a lead, but they quickly squandered that to go into overtime. Rather than sulking over his team’s lack of cashing in on his heroics, Cooper extended a couple of sets of downs in overtime. Then, with all the marbles on the line, he ran a curl route a few yards in front of the endzone. Prescott drilled the ball straight at the defender, who was actually in quite solid coverage. Cooper, however, was not going to lose that game. He reached in front of the defender and tipped the ball out, then caught it off the deflection and waltzed into the endzone for the overtime win.
At the end of it all, Cooper had 10 catches for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Despite all the heroics, none were quite as legendary as Derrick Henry was on Thursday Night. With all the nation tuned in to watch the only decent sporting event on TV, Henry put on a performance to shame his night against Auburn in 2015 that won him a Heisman trophy.
238 yards. 4 touchdowns.
He could have had a 5th, but actually refused to go back into the game from the goal line with his team up comfortably and only a few minutes left in the game. He said afterwards in an interview that he had already gotten his share of touchdowns, and wanted his partner in the backfield, Dion Lewis, to get in on the action.
Henry’s 4th touchdown showcased a 250-pound man outrunning one of the best and most athletic cornerbacks in the league in Jalen Ramsey, around the corner and down the sideline. It was an athletic feat that shouldn’t even be possible for a human being.
When looking at the top speed and size of ball carriers, @Titans Derrick Henry is in a league of his own. @KingHenry_2 reached 21.74 MPH at 247 lbs, the 8th-fastest speed by a ball carrier this season. pic.twitter.com/s4cqklyM0U— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 7, 2018
(Side note: check out this chart, Derrick Henry, OJ Howard, and Julio Jones all max out the size/speed boundary in the NFL. Roll Tide)
But that wasn’t even his best moment of the night. No. Instead he had to top it with one of the most dominant single runs in NFL history, tying the record with a full 99 yards to paydirt. The length of the run, though, was not even the most impressive part. It was that he stiff armed three different defenders into different dimensions. We haven’t seen them since.
Evans' 4th-down stop led to the next play, Derrick Henry's 99-yard touchdown run. Here's that epic play set to the Titanic's "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion @KingHenry_2 + #ProBowlVote #TitanicHenry pic.twitter.com/cCjjbpyjQS— Titans Film Room (@titansfilmroom) December 11, 2018
Three former Tide players took the NFL by storm this last week. They dominated the sport at the highest level and won in spectacular fashions.
So much so that it pretty much went unnoticed that Julio Jones and Robert Foster both went over 100 yards receiving, Mark Ingram trucked like 5 people on a crazy touchdown run, and Jarran Reed (just another fat Alabama run defender that can’t rush the passer) racked up 6 QB hits, a TFL, and a sack.
Alabama is busting the NFL now. Nick Saban has Processed the pros.