The University of Alabama has a rich football tradition that dates back to the early part of the 1900s. The Crimson Tide have been involved in some of the greatest games in college football history. They have also sent some truly great players on to play in the NFL. Who though were the five players drafted highest in NFL history out of Alabama?
Harry Gilmer – QB/HB
Harry Gilmer played quarterback and halfback for eight years in the NFL. He was drafted with the first overall pick in the draft by the Washington Redskins in 1948 after quarterbacking for Alabama. He played six seasons in Washington before playing his final two years for the Detroit Lions and then retiring following the 1956 season. Nine years later he would return to prominence as he became the head coach of the Lions. He would only last two seasons though after putting up a record of 10-16-2. Gilmer was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
Joe Namath – QB
Possibly the most famous player in Alabama Crimson Tide history, Joe Namath not only starred in Alabama, but also with the New York Jets who chose him with the first overall pick in the 1965 NFL Draft. Namath played 13 seasons in the NFL, but none more important than when he led the Jets to an upset Super Bowl victory over the Baltimore Colts in the 1968 Super Bowl, putting the American Football League on the map. After 12 years in New York, Namath would spend one final NFL season with the Los Angeles Rams before hanging it up. After football, Namath dabbled in both broadcasting and acting.
Riley Smith – QB/HB/LB/K
Riley Smith starred for the University of Alabama in the early 1930s and then was drafted with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft in 1936. This was the first ever NFL Draft in history and Smith was the first drafted player to sign a contract. He would play just three seasons in the NFL, first with Boston and then two seasons after the team moved to the nation’s capital and became the Washington Redskins, before an injury ended his career. He would later go into coaching and serve in World War II.
Cornelius Bennett – LB
Cornelius Bennett starred for Alabama in the mid 1980s before being drafted in the first round with the third pick overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 1987. He never suited up for the Colts though that season as before the year began he was involved in a three way trade that brought Eric Dickerson to Indianapolis and sent Bennett to Buffalo where he starred for the Bills for a number of years, including appearing in four straight Super Bowls. While at Alabama, Bennett was named an All-American three times, won the 1986 Lombardi Award, and was the 1986 SEC Player of the Year. In 2005, Cornelius Bennett was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
In 2000, the Washington Redskins drafted offensive tackle Chris Samuels out of the University of Alabama with the third overall pick in the first round. Samuels was born and raised in Alabama and then went on to become one of the best blockers in Crimson Tide history. He started every game from early on during his freshman season right up until his final game as a senior and never gave up a quarterback sack. Samuels went on to a very successful NFL career with the Redskins, making it to six Pro Bowls in just his first ten years in the league.