As we close in on the 2015 NFL season, we begin to focus on some of the bigger stars in the league. These players did not only have terrific careers while at Alabama but have carried that success to their professional teams. Today’s focus lies on two former Crimson Tide players who were a large part one of the nation’s top defenses from 2009 to 2011. Marcell Dareus and Dont’a Hightower were both apart of the 2009 national championship team. Dareus had the big moment in the 2010 BCS National Championship game when he returned an interception for a touchdown and Hightower finished the 2011 championship game with a sack and forced fumble. The two first-round draft picks have found their spots in the NFL and have already made big impacts.
Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills, Defensive Tackle
6’3″, 311 pounds
1 year, $8.06 million
Marcell Dareus was selected with the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills and has began to make a major impact as their starting defensive tackle. Dareus has started 60 games in his four-year career and has recorded 202 tackles and 28.5 sacks for the Bills. He’s coming off one of the best seasons of his career, starting 15 of 16 games, only missing the season finale with an injury. Dareus had 49 total tackles and 10.0 sacks along with one forced fumble and a pass deflection. The former Tide star is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is expected to sign a big extension soon. There have even been rumors of the Bills possibly franchising Dareus in 2016.
Dareus is listed as the starter at left defensive tackle entering this season. He has had limited playing time so far in two preseason games and has recorded four tackles and one sack. New Bills coach Rex Ryan is expected to bring in a 3-4 base defense and that would move Dareus to the nose guard position.The move could see his numbers take a hit but his impact could become even bigger. Dareus will be leading a defense that needs to be the strength in Buffalo for the Bills to have a successful season.
Dont’a Hightower, New England Patriots, Linebacker
6’3″, 265 pounds
2 years, $9.2 million
Dont’a Hightower was a first-round draft pick in 2012 after winning two national championships with Alabama. Hightower played with a great linebacking core and has found another one in New England. The Patriots are coming off a Super Bowl winning season where Hightower was once again one of the leaders on the defense. He played on every defensive snap for New England in the Super Bowl, finishing with five tackles, including the one on Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line with a minute left in the game. Hightower finished the 2014 regular season just starting 12 games, finishing with 89 tackles and six sacks. The former Crimson Tide captain missed four games with a shoulder injury that he eventually needed surgery for during the offseason. Hightower has fully recovered and is ready to reunite with Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins at the linebacker position.
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter,@CalebTurrentine.