Alabama Football Culture Remains Strong

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

The news that Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr. plan to suit up for Alabama Football in the Sugar Bowl has certainly spread like wildfire through the fan base by now. It’s surprising, to the point of being newsworthy, for a pair of projected top-10 picks to participate in a “meaningless” non-playoff bowl game in this day and age.

While Young and Anderson Jr. choosing to play is a huge deal in and of itself, the real story here surrounds the culture of the Alabama football program. In the midst of a rough two-year period in which the program’s culture has been criticized by fans and media alike, the Crimson Tide is showing its true character.

The two superstars will make all the headlines, but there are several other players who could’ve opted not to play and would not have been questioned. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs and defensive backs Jordan Battle, DeMarcco Hellams, Brian Branch, and Eli Ricks are all draft eligible and expected to enter the 2023 NFL Draft.

Gibbs, Branch, and Ricks in particular are considered to be borderline first-round picks in various mock drafts. This is in addition to Young and Anderson Jr., who have occasionally been mocked as the top two picks in the draft. At virtually any other school in the country, all of these players would likely sit out of a game like the Sugar Bowl. Instead, it appears that they have chosen to finish what they started.

This collective decision speaks to the “team first” climate that Coach Nick Saban has put in place. It also shows the quality of leadership on this team. The veteran members of Alabama’s roster have seen a national championship, an SEC championship, two playoff appearances, and various individual awards and accolades. Still, they are not above playing in a Sugar Bowl.

Keep in mind, the seniors on this team have been here before. Players such as Battle, Hellams, defensive lineman Byron Young, and several more were around in 2019 when Alabama Football missed the playoff for the first time and found itself in the Citrus Bowl.

They saw first hand how most of their draft-eligible teammates not only played, but took the game seriously and ultimately got a decisive win over Michigan. This game served as the springboard to a national championship in 2020, and clearly left an impression on the current Bama seniors.

In what was a disappointing 2022 season by all accounts, these players still believe in sacrificing for their team, leaving on a high note, and sending the program in the right direction.

The 2022 Sugar Bowl will be a rarity in the modern age. It will feel like a real bowl game, the way marquee postseason showdowns used to feel before NIL and opt-outs diminished their legitimacy.

From the 2023 recruiting class, to transfer portal transgressions and roster assembly, to the recently-announced expectation of full participation in the Sugar Bowl, everything seems to be moving in the right direction for the Alabama football program. The final step is this 2022 group putting it together on the field in their last game as a unit.

The team has struggled all year in various areas, and the argument could be made that it never put together a complete game in the regular season. New Orleans would be the perfect location for the 2022 Crimson Tide to finally have a dominant, signature performance.

Next. 6 early enrollees already practicing with Bama. dark

It seems as though the culture in Tuscaloosa is intact. If that is the case, the Sugar Bowl could be a statement game.