It is expected to be a big night for Alabama as the first round of the NFL draft rolls on, but Nick Saban already has one of his most elusive conquests squared away. Tua Tagovailoa became the first quarterback coached by Saban to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.
Tagovailoa was drafted by the Miami Dolphins with the fifth overall draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
For all the success Saban has had at Alabama, including in the NFL draft, a first-round quarterback was more a dream than a reality until now. Prior to Tagovailoa, Alabama had just two quarterbacks drafted by an NFL franchise since Saban took over as head coach of the Crimson Tide. AJ McCarron went in the fifth round in 2014 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Greg McElroy, who now is a college football analyst for ESPN, was a seventh-round selection of the New York Jets.
Saban has now successfully coached a first-round draft pick at every position, with the notable exception of a specialist position (Alabama kickers, am I right?). This makes Saban the first coach to have coached a first-round draft pick at every non-specialist position, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
The last time Alabama had a first-round draft pick at the quarterback position was in 1976 when Richard Todd was taken sixth overall by the New York Jets. Two others have played quarterback for Alabama and gone in the first round. The first was Harry Gilmer in 1948. Gilmer was chosen first overall. Joe Namath was taken 12th overall in 1965. For those curious, Bart Starr, who went on to have a hall of fame career in the NFL, was a 17th round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1956 (take THAT, Tom Brady).
Alabama could potentially tie a draft record with the most first-round draft picks. The record of six first-round draft picks is currently held by the Miami Hurricanes in the 2004 NFL draft.
A little over five years ago, Auburn — behind Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton — beat Oregon in the BCS Championship. Two weeks from now, Newton will have an opportunity to join a list that currently is only populated by Joe Namath and Joe Montana.
Namath (Alabama, New York Jets) and Montana (Notre Dame, San Francisco 49ers) are the only two quarterbacks in football history to start for a college football champion and win a Super Bowl. Newton would be the third.
Of course, guys like Tom Brady and Ken Stabler were backups at Michigan and Alabama, respectively, and went on to win a Super Bowl (in Brady’s case, Super Bowls) as a pro. Troy Aikman started for part of Oklahoma’s 1985 championship team, but was injured in October and missed the Sooners’ last push to a title. Joe Flacco lost the 2007 FCS Championship to Appalachian State, while Steve Young (BYU) and Peyton Manning (Tennessee) both left college a year before their schools won championships.
College football’s recent quarterback champions don’t lend a ton of hope that anyone will join Namath, Montana and potentially Newton anytime soon. Jameis Winston has the best chance, and A.J. McCarron started for Cincinnati after Andy Dalton got hurt.
But consider the list of quarterbacks to win a college title since 2000: Josh Heupel (now Mizzou’s offensive coordinator), Ken Dorsey (now Newton’s QB coach with the Panthers), Craig Krenzel (now a motivational speaker and founded an insurance company), Matt Mauck (who’s a dentist), Matt Leinart (who’s now a talking head for FOX Sports), Vince Young (who has a steakhouse in Austin and was arrested for DWI on Monday), Chris Leak (who’s a staffer with the Buccaneers), Matt Flynn (who most recently was the Saints’ backup), Tim Tebow (now a talking head for ESPN), Greg McElroy (now a talking head — and an underrated one — for ESPN), Newton, McCarron, Winston, Cardale Jones (who’s turning pro this year) and Jacob Coker (who’s collegiate eligibility is up).
After failing to survive the Philadelphia Eagles’ final round of roster cuts, former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is set to return to his role as an analyst for SEC Network.
“Tim quickly developed into an excellent analyst last year, and we were not shy about acknowledging his home at ESPN should he be available to return,” ESPN executive VP John Wildhack said in a statement.
Tebow will reprise his role as an analyst on SEC Nation, the Southern-fed offshoot of College GameDay. He’ll be alongside host Joe Tessitore, fellow SEC gridiron alums Greg McElroy and Marcus Spears and professional rabble-rouser Paul Finebaum.
Tebow will rejoin the crew as it visits Nashville for Georgia-Vanderbilt game on Saturday.