In the shadow of the final game of their career in Alabama, four players were invited to a press conference attended by Nick Saban at the Mal Moore Athletic Complex.
There, the world learned that Quinnen Williams and Jonah Williams, Josh Jacobs and Irv Smith Jr. had decided to participate in the NFL Draft.
Fifteen weeks later, each of these Crimson Tide stars was selected in the first two rounds – from Pick # 3 to # 50
They got their face time on TV, and soon they'll be on the high slots Rookie pay scale also got big sign bonuses. As they celebrated their new fame and fortune, some of their former teammates silently suffered, waiting and waiting for their name before coming to the sobering realization that it just would not happen. Three rounds had passed, and by the end of Day 2, 1
Once again, they were excluded from the selection. The party was just as it was in January, when Crimson Tide's three former defenders were strikingly absent from Saban's draft of the Declaration Conference.
It was no coincidence. Saban will normally only be celebrating the players he gives His blessing to become a pro and it was clear that Wilson, Thompson and Smith did not receive this affirmation.
Saban has long said that a player with remaining eligibility is not selected within the first two rounds. He is better served when he returns to school and improves his camp. Prior to this year, 24 of Alabama's 31 young newcomers had been selected during Saban's tenure within that range – a hit rate of 77 percent.
One of the seven persons who were not, the former security that Ronnie Harrison used, has become the example Saban uses most often when players talk about players injuring themselves only when they do go to become a professional before they have maximized their potential. Earlier this month, the Alabama coach doubtfully questioned the decision Harrison had made last year when he bypassed his senior season, entered the draft, and was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third round.
Saban had tried to persuade Harrison to stay in Tuscaloosa for another year, just as he did in similar talks with players who came before him – namely Mark Barron, Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster.
The difference was that Harrison did not pay Sabans advice.
"If you look at the number of boys who were drafted in the first and second rounds, there were very few who had failed a career," Saban said on April 6. "Well, we have people who do not have design notes, seventh round, free manpower, fifth round to be taken out of the draft. And the person who loses is the player.
"If you chose the third round and we had one here last year – I will not name anything – his team starts, so he makes money in the third round, which is not great. He would probably be the first to be replaced this year, earning $ 15-18 million more. The agent is out, the club is out, and now they have a man who will spend three years on that kind of money. And everyone out there is saying, "Now come on your next contract." Well, there are obviously 50 percent of those people who never get another contract. And that does not mean that everyone else has come to one.
Saban used Harrison to illustrate his point of view. But the fiery safety had landed in a better place than Thompson, Smith, and Wilson when the final four rounds of the draft are completed on Saturday.
Together, these three men could prove to be cautious stories compelling the future Alabama. Stars considering an early start to their NFL career should consider Saban's advice more carefully before making a decision that will suit both the player and the player can also have negative consequences for the program to hunt their NFL dreams.
But when they got their fate on Friday, Saban went to bed, knowing that he was reaffirmed months after drafting the draft press conference. Rainer Sabin is an Alabama writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin