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Countdown to Kickoff: Ryan Kelly dominated while wearing #70

Kelly was one of the best centers of the Saban era.

Florida Atlantc v Alabama Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Alabama has had plenty of good offensive linemen under Nick Saban, and Ryan Kelly, who wore #70, is up there with the best of them.

The Ohio native was a 4 star coming out of high school , but he wasn’t some top 100 player with everybody drooling over him. He was the #12 recruit in Ohio, and the home-state Buckeyes didn’t even recruit. Their loss was the Tide’s gain, however.

Kelly started off slowly, as many offensive linemen do in Tuscaloosa. He redshirted his first year and worked his way into a back-up role in his second. With Barrett Jones’ departure after the 2012 season, the starting center job was there for the taking. And Kelly took it.

He missed a couple games in each of his first two years, but he excelled when he was on the field. Kelly returned for his redshirt senior season in 2015, and boy did it pay off.

Kelly was voted a permanent team captain. He was named first team All-SEC by the AP and the coaches. He was a consensus All-American (should have been a unanimous All-American, but the AP picked a Michigan State player instead).

Kelly won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which goes to the SEC’s best blocker. And he also won the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the nation’s best center, partially because he didn’t allow a single sack all season. To cap things off, he was drafted 18th overall by the Indianapolis Colts, somehow the only first round Alabama pick that year.

Since then, he has been a quality NFL starter, garnering a Pro Bowl nod in 2019 and earning himself a hefty contract extension in 2020. Kelly inked a 4 year, $50 million deal with $30 million guaranteed. The extension made him the highest-paid center in NFL history at the time, though that distinction belongs to someone else now.

Not bad at all for #70.