Champions of The Round Table

 
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Greg McElroy
Larry Burton (Panama City Beach, Fla.) Alabama has but a few fifth-year seniors on this year's team. Even fewer are starters. The last members from that 2006 class are doing their farewell tour this year. They are the last of the players not handpicked by Nick Saban.

As an Alabama writer, I have studied the players for years, but as an Alabama fan first and foremost, those players who "stayed the course" before Saban's arrival will always be among my favorites.

These are players like so many already departed who bled Crimson and stayed the course when times were at their worst.

These were not the five-star people who chose to go somewhere without problems, these were the just good athletes who came and helped Alabama hold their dignity and turn the Tide back into a winning program.

Speaking as a fan now and not an objective writer, we can never repay them for that sacrifice. Alabama was not then as it is now as the easy choice to make. In fact it could have been the hardest.

Watching USC players depart the program there now because of sanctions reminds me that when given that choice, nobody left from Alabama.

This last group remaining learned from players like Rashad Johnson that you can stay and be a "nobody," but work hard, sell yourself to your
school heart and soul and see good things happen.

Johnson was one of those "nobodies" that hung tough and went on to become a team captain and a first round NFL pick.

"I never once thought about leaving Alabama." Johnson told me a few years ago. "I was part of something special even if nobody else outside our team knew it. I was so proud to repay this team for what they had done for me, by helping them get ready for the days when they could contend for titles again."

And that is indeed what happened.

As this final group takes the field this year, let us not forget the end of that era, the contributions that all the non-Saban recruits have given us and let us enjoy this last year of them and thank the players for helping us become the juggernaut that looks capable of being contenders now for years to come.

"Alabama is a special place. I was awed by the tradition here and wanted to come and be a part of something this special." McElroy told me. "I knew when I signed, it wasn't going to be easy, but everything that has happened was worth the work and time."

Players like him, Earl Alexander, Taylor Pharr, Milton Talbert and more are all men that we not only thank, but revere. Though each has helped in a different way, all have provided steps to help this team get where it is today.

Though the best years for Alabama may be the years ahead, this era that is ending is one I will always be grateful for.

We had boys who became men, who held our team together in the darker days, who endured mocking losses like those to the
University of Louisiana at Monroe but fought back to help us become champions again.

They never quit believing in their team or themselves.

As a writer, I see the talent being signed and stockpiled and as excited as I am and as badly as I want to them take the field and show why they were rated so high, I really want to enjoy this last year and the last of the old guard.

You've not only made us proud men, but you've done yourselves proud.

As one small voice in the sea of the Alabama nation, let me thank you and all the other old guard that went before you for holding us together, for building us to where we are today, and for making us champions once again.

"When you get to last few steps before the finish line, remember the first steps that were taken on the backs of others are just as important as the final ones you make on your own."

That's the most favored quote I've ever written and it so applies to this team.

 

    By: Larry Burton

    From: Bleacher Report

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