By Jordan Ray
Defensive standouts Reggie Ragland, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed were on the field when Alabama won its 16th national title in January.
All three were in the Green Room on Thursday night at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.
All three were waiting to be drafted by the NFL in the first round.
None of them were selected.
Until Friday, that is.
In the second round.
“It was a humbling experience,” Ragland said. “You think you’re going to go somewhere, but God has another plan for you.”
The trio considered going home after Thursday’s disappointment, but made a pact to stay and hear their names called in Chicago.
“As soon as the last pick (of the first round) happened, we all came together and decided we were going to come back and stay hungry,” Reed said. “Just wait it out until we walked across the stage.”
From 2010-14, Alabama averaged three first-round draft picks a year — 15 over five years. But this was the second straight year the Tide managed just one firstrounder, with center Ryan Kelly going 19th overall to the Indianapolis Colts
During his introductory news conference with the Colts, Kelly praised Alabama’s defenders for making him a better player.
“(My toughest individual matchup was) every single day in practice, going against the best defense and front seven in college football,” Kelly told reporters Friday.
“Ultimately, I wouldn’t be where I’m sitting today without those guys.”
Three of those guys finally joined him in the NFL a day later. For Ragland, the wait was tough.
“I was thinking everything,” he said. “I wanted to go home. Then I wanted to stay. (We all got together and said), ‘Let’s just stay.’”
Ragland ended up being the first of the three to be taken. The Buffalo Bills picked the linebacker at No. 41 overall.
“We all were upset,” Ragland said. “But we knew once we got the opportunity that we’d show them we can play ball.”
Robinson, a defensive tackle, went five picks later to the Detroit Lions.
“I got the call, and it was just an amazing feeling,” Robinson said. “A blessing.”
Robinson and Ragland waited with Reed until he was picked, too.
“We were all here for each other,” Reed said.
Seattle picked the defensive tackle at No. 49. Reed carried Skittles onto the stage in honor of retired Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, a commercial pitchman for the candy.
“I thought it would be kind of funny to bring the Skittles out,” Reed said. “I’ve been eating ’em the whole time.”
Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry, cornerback Cyrus Jones and running back Kenyan Drake also went on Day 2, giving Alabama seven total picks so far.
“When you get invited here, you’re always going to expect to go in the first round,” said Chris Jones, a Mississippi State defensive lineman who also waited to the second round before being drafted. “Everybody has their expectations. They want to walk that stage before anybody. They want to be the guy to hug the commissioner first … it’s not about who gets drafted first. It’s about what they do once they get drafted.”