Why today’s players only know Alabama as ‘the Patriots’ of college football – AL.com

Sony Michel was old enough to remember a time when Alabama wasn’t the king of college football or one of its top contenders.

But the Georgia running back doesn’t.

Asked if he could recall when the Crimson Tide was just another program, he didn’t waste a second before responding.

“No,” he said. “They were always that standard team, just like the Patriots were that standard team of the NFL. Alabama is that standard team.”

A whole generation of athletes, including those who play at other SEC programs, has grown up in a world where the Tide is viewed the best of the best. They have either never witnessed Alabama struggle or have forgotten an era of college football when the Tide wasn’t a mainstay at the top of the polls and other teams were more consistently successful than the one based in Tuscaloosa. Most of the current players in the college ranks — even the seniors — had yet to reach adolescence when Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa and launched a dynasty.

“Ever since I have been following football, they have been up there,” LSU receiver D.J. Chark said.

Alabama has seven straight No. 1 recruiting classes and it’s no wonder why. As each year passes with the Crimson Tide maintaining its elite status, the perception of Alabama as the dominant program is reinforced.

Impressionable prospects take notice.

“It’s cool to go to Alabama,” said ESPN analyst Marcus Spears, who went to LSU. “Most high school kids are looking at these college players, and if you tell them you’ve got a scholarship offer to Alabama it’s like you’re the man on campus. All of that stuff matters.

“It all manifests from winning games, and it all manifests from every media outlet talking about them and we have to because they’re the champs. And they’re just winning at a consistent basis so that just plays into all of the things they can see. And until somebody else can make a run here it’s going to continue to be that way.”

In so many words, Spears said Alabama has become the football equivalent of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Its success has helped the Crimson Tide become more attractive to the best recruits, who want to play for the Tide, which in turn will make Alabama even more powerful. The cycle continues to rotate and the image of Alabama is further enhanced for kids who have never seen the Tide out of contention.

“People like winners,” Spears said. “That is really what it boils down to. When you look at the national championship, that’s who is there. When you look at the SEC championship, that’s who is there. When you turn on the draft the last few years, a lot of players are going in the first round. All of that stuff is recruiting.”

And it’s making it easier for Alabama to remain on the same throne where many of today’s college football players have always thought they’ve been — even if they were old enough to remember when the Tide wasn’t.

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