On Monday, Alabama football had two of its former stars named to a prestigious list.
While the National Football League calls on its players for its top 100 list, Steven Ruiz of USA Today put his together based on how players will build off success from 2015 and carry it into 2016.
As they were at Alabama, Julio Jones and Dont’a Hightower are both leaders on their NFL teams.
Jones, who enters his sixth season in Atlanta, made the list at No. 19.
He led the NFL in receiving yards (1,875), while being tied for first in receptions (136) during the 2015 season. His 1,875 yards set a Falcons’ single-season record and it stands as the second-most output in league history. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound wide receiver has been a part of three NFL Pro Bowls (2012, 2014-15) and was named first-team All-Pro in 2015. Jones, a former first-round pick, has totaled 414 receptions for 6,201 yards and 34 touchdowns in five seasons with Atlanta.
Hightower now becomes the face of New England’s defense, as he enters his fifth year.
He compiled 61 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 12 regular-season games in 2015.
Hightower has been to the playoffs all four seasons that he’s been in the league (drafted in 2012, first round), with New England’s latest Super Bowl run occurring in his third year. He posted 89 tackles and six sacks during the 2014 regular season and added 16 more tackles in the playoffs.
Hightower was credited with a crucial tackle of Seattle’s running back Marshawn Lynch in Super Bowl 49. He would hurt his shoulder on the play, but ended up helping the Patriots to a 28-24 win and its fourth Super Bowl championship.
He’s ranks 73rd on USA Today’s list; however, Hightower has a chance to improve those numbers next season. The ex-Crimson Tide linebacker has accounted for 307 tackles, 14.5 sacks, a forced fumble, three fumble recoveries and 10 pass defended in four seasons.