Two ‘different’ examples of how being an Alabama football player pays off

(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images) /

It pays to be an Alabama football player in varied ways. NIL deals have changed everything but this post is about other benefits from being a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Getting one or more degrees is a too-often undervalued payoff. For most college athletes, graduating will provide more lifetime earnings than will NIL deals.

Headlines concentrate on professional contracts. The dollars are sometimes huge for elite players who succeed in the NFL. A story not given enough attention is how former Alabama football players, never having achieved elite status, carve out successful NFL careers.

Most recently, former Alabama walk-on cornerback, Levi Wallace was given a new contract by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wallace came to Tuscaloosa as a walk-on in 2014 and saw no action that season or in 2015. As a junior in 2016, he was awarded a scholarship. Wallace became a Crimson Tide starter in the second game of the 2017 season. Though Wallace was a standout member of the Tide defense as a senior, and a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist, he was not drafted.

Wallace found his way to the NFL as a practice squad member of the Buffalo Bills. Halfway into the 2018 NFL season, Wallace became a starter for the Bills. In four playing seasons, he started 52 games for the Bills. Measured in NFL terms, Wallace’s four-season earnings from the Bills was small, totaling around $4.1M from salary and bonuses. According to Jordan Shultz, the Steelers will pay Wallace $8M in a two-year deal. Levi Wallace is proof walking on at Alabama pays off.

Robert Foster was a 2013, 5-Star recruit. His Alabama football career never matched expectations. In five seasons in Tuscaloosa, Foster earned four starts as a wide receiver. In his four playing seasons, he caught 29 passes for 345 yards.

Like Levi Wallace, Foster signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent. Foster started four games for the Bills in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He started two games for Washington in 2020. Almost all of his 2021 season was spent on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. A few days ago the New York Giants offered Foster a new contract. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Foster will get a great opportunity, playing for new Giants’ Head Coach, Brian Daboll. Daboll knows Foster well from his stint as Alabama Offensive Coordinator in 2017. Like Levi Wallace, Robert Foster shows the value of playing for Nick Saban – and sticking with it, when it would have been easy to leave for another program.

Wallace and Foster are just two of numerous NFL success stories about former Alabama football players. Guys that never starred but who had their talents developed by Nick Saban and the Alabama football staff.

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The Levi Wallace story from walk-on to the NFL is a compelling one. So is his story as a maturing young man, determined to make an impact on the lives of others.