When Alabama held its annual press conference following the team’s season announcing which players were leaving the program early for the 2019 NFL Draft, four players were present. That number is noteworthy because seven players decided to leave Alabama early this offseason for the NFL.
The players in attendance for that Jan. 11 press conference were defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, offensive lineman Jonah Williams, running back Josh Jacobs and tight end Irv Smith Jr. While linebacker Mack Wilson and defensive backs Deionte Thompson and Saivion Smith were not present.
Some have suggested the absence of those three players indicated Nick Saban disagreed with their decisions to leave Alabama early. Based on what Alex Byington of the Montgomery Advertiser has written, that certainly is the case with Wilson’s decision to leave Tuscaloosa early for the NFL.
While many were surprised when Wilson declared for the 2019 NFL Draft, based on the perception of his draft stock, his social media posts following the loss to Clemson and his mother’s comments leading up to the draft deadline, the three-year Alabama linebacker had his reasons for going pro. Chief among them was the ability to take care of his family with the money the NFL will provide him.
According to Byington, Saban made several last-ditch efforts to get Wilson to return for his senior season at Alabama. The Crimson Tide coach even reached out to Wilson’s mother and godfather, Todd Dowell, for assistance in keeping the linebacker in school.
For Saban, it came down to one thing, Wilson needing more time and experience to become ready for life in the NFL. In response to that issue, Dowell asked Saban a question the coach must not have been prepared to answer.
“You’ve had him three years. What are you going to do in a year that you haven’t done in three?” Dowell asked Saban. “He couldn’t answer.”
In the end, Wilson’s camp may have a good point. After appearing in 42 contests in three seasons and playing at the highest level in college football, there won’t be much more Wilson can learn on the field before starting his professional career.
Wilson may not have had the junior season many envisioned, he entered the season with some preseason All-American accolades but didn’t quite live up to that billing. However, he was honored as All-SEC second team selection by the conference coaches after racking up 71 tackles for the Crimson Tide. Should he impress NFL teams during the pre-draft period, he’s likely to be selected in the first round of the upcoming selection process.