Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Football: The Greatness of Barrett Jones

Every now and then a player comes along who makes us step back and truly appreciate the career they have had. Sometimes that reflection comes several years down the road.

In the case of Barrett Jones, we can appreciate all he has accomplished already, even with a game against Notre Dame for the national championship still to come.

Alabama football has a long tradition of great players who have passed through Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide boast over 100 All-Americans and counting, with numerous individual award winners including 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.

But no player in Alabama history has had his name etched in more hardware than Barrett Jones, and the accolades continue to pour in for the Crimson Tide’s four-year starter.

Jones came to Alabama as a part of an incredible 2008 recruiting class that featured the likes of Mark Barron, Terrence Cody, Marcell Dareus, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Robert Lester and Courtney Upshaw.

Jones was a four-star recruit from Germantown, Tennessee, but he was far from the crown jewel of that recruiting class; or so we thought at the time. Nobody could have predicted the success he would have. He was simply another good player that everyone hoped would start on the offensive line for a couple years.

He did that and more. Jones has started 49 games for Alabama over his four-year career, and will make it an even fifty come January. More impressively, Barrett has started at three different positions on the offensive line for the Crimson Tide.

He started at right guard for Alabama in 2009 and 2010 before shifting over to left tackle in 2011 to fill the void left by first-round draft pick James Carpenter. All he did as a left tackle was win the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman, along with being a unanimous first-team All-American. It is very possible he could become the first Alabama football player ever to be a unanimous first-team All-American more than once.

Prior to this season, Barrett was asked to move to center to fill the void left by three-year starter William Vlachos, and to allow former five-star recruit Cyrus Kouandjio to start at left tackle. He made the move with no complaint  and it was a seamless transition, as the Crimson Tide boasted the best offensive line in the country this season.

Jones took home the Rimington Trophy on Thursday night as the nation’s best center after only starting there for one year. He became only the second player in college football history – along with Dave Rimington himself – to win both the Rimington Trophy and the Outland Trophy in their careers.

To go along with those awards, Barrett won the Wuerffel Trophy last season, given annually to the college football player who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement. Sounds to me like they could change the name of that award to the Barrett Jones Trophy.

Perhaps the individual award Barrett most cherishes is the Campbell Trophy, sometimes referred to as the Academic Heisman.

Barrett Jones is a guy who represents everything that is right about college athletics. He is a star on the football field, but is also a star in the classroom with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

While the future is bright outside of football for Jones, he’s not hanging up his cleats just yet. Jones is likely a first round-pick come April, and he will play a long time in the NFL as a key cog on some lucky team’s offensive line.

Most impressively, Barrett Jones has the opportunity to have started for three different Crimson Tide national championship teams at three different positions, having started at right guard on Alabama’s 2009 team and at left tackle on the 2011 team.

It’s hard to put into words how great Barrett Jones has been at Alabama and just how much he has meant to the program. He has represented the University in a first-class way his entire career, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Nick Saban has said many times that Barrett is as fine a student athlete as he has ever been around.

Jones called last Saturday’s win over Georgia the favorite of his long and illustrious career. It may have also been his best game, further cementing him in Alabama lore as he gutted through the pain of a first-quarter foot injury to lead Alabama to the 32-28 win over the Bulldogs and into the BCS National Championship Game. He could barely walk after the game, and had to have the aid of crutches to even make it out of the locker room as he once again showed his heart, determination and will to win.

January 7th in Miami will be the last time we see Barrett Jones put on the Crimson and White. It’ll be the last time he laces up his cleats and runs out on the field as a member of the Crimson Tide. So cherish that moment because we have been fortunate enough to witness the career of one of the all-time greats.

When the clock strikes 0:00 in Miami that night – regardless of the outcome of the game – Barrett Jones will forever go down in history as one of the greatest football players to ever play at the University of Alabama.

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