Pat Longobardi, Sports Writer:
Last Thursday, while the state of Alabama had a lot to be happy about with five potential first-round picks entering the NFL draft, tragedy struck as tornadoes swept through the Southern part of the United States. Tuscaloosa, Ala. was one of the places hit as homes were destroyed and lives were lost.
While nothing can bring back what many have lost, the tradition of football in states such as Alabama could help heal some pain. In states where other sports are not as popular, celebrating something like college football gives some inspiration and hope to move forward during these tough times. Witnessing a rivalry game and watching championship-caliber teams and players can help bring some happiness and joy to faces in the area.
Five of the first six draft picks came from the SEC (Southeast Conference), and five picks in the first 28 came from the state of Alabama; two from Auburn University and three from the University of Alabama.
Auburn’s Cam Newton was selected by the Carolina Panthers with the first overall pick. Highly scrutinized for off-the-field issues last season, Newton overcame all of that with poise and determination, as he led the Tigers to an undefeated season and a national championship and won the Heisman Trophy. As he will play in the NFC South, where a good quarterback is important, Newton needs to keep up his professional attitude that has propelled him so far. Nick Fairley, the other Auburn Tiger selected in the first round, was selected by the Detroit Lions with the 13th overall pick. Fairley had a great second half of the season in 2010. The Lions, on paper, now have one of the best defensive lines in the league with Fairley and Ndamukong Suh.
Marcel Dareus was the first former member of the Crimson Tide taken off the board by the Buffalo Bills at No. 3. Dareus was considered a top five pick within the past month, and hopefully will show his skills and improve Buffalo’s defense. The Atlanta Falcons traded up to select wide receiver Julio Jones at No. 6. Atlanta knew they had to address the offense and get a big play receiver for Matt Ryan, and moved up quickly to get one of the best prospects available at the position. Finally, the New Orleans Saints acquired the No. 28 pick from New England to get running back Mark Ingram. A former Heisman Trophy winner, Ingram is now on a former Super Bowl champion, and will be a force in the NFC.
Nobody knows why places that prepare for big moments sometimes experience tragedy. My thoughts go out to those affected by the tornadoes. In what was considered to be a special time for Alabama, the tornadoes put things in perspective. Alabama head coach, Nick Saban, mentioned prior to the draft about giving back to the community, and that this comes next after seeing his players get drafted. Those citizens in places such as Alabama, who love their football, can look at these athletes as they will eventually give back to their communities that supported them, as they have done before with community service in college.