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Crimson Tide Top 5: Tight Ends

Throughout the month of June, Bama Central writers will pick the best five players in each Alabama sport, and for each position group in football

When looking at the list of prolific tight ends in Alabama football history, the list might not be as long as linebackers or wide receivers.

But boy is it a talented one.

The Nick Saban era alone has produced some talented tight ends that didn't make this list, with players like Hale Hentges, Preston Dial and Miller Forristall missing the cut. Of course, a few players from the Saban era definitely made the list, but there have no doubt been some solid tight ends under the Crimson Tide's current coach.

Another talented player left off of this list was Terry Jones, Jr. The son of an Alabama defensive tackle, Jones finished his career with the Crimson Tide in 2001 and accounted for 31 receptions for 480 yards and three touchdowns. Jones was named All-SEC his senior season and was a captain that same year, with his hand and footprints still located beneath the shadow of Denny Chimes.

If that talented tight end didn't make the list, then the others above him must have done something special, right?

Here's the top 5 all-time tight ends from Alabama football, in reverse order:

5. Michael Williams

A freshman in 2009, Michael Williams was on the field when the Crimson Tide won its first national title in almost two decades. While he only contributed three receptions for 29 yards that season, Williams was poised to assist Alabama to national prominence once again.

Over the course of his four years with the Crimson Tide, Williams incrementally improved season after season. In 2010, he jumped up to eight receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. In 2011, 16 receptions for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

After his second national title in three years, Williams wasn't done quite yet. In 2012, Williams had his best season yet, posting 24 receptions for 183 yards and four touchdowns en route to the Crimson Tide's third title in four seasons.

While Williams' name might not come up as often as A.J. McCarron or Trent Richardson, Williams no doubt helped produce on offense and played a solid part in helping bring the Crimson Tide back to national prominence.

4. Howard Cross

In the era between Paul 'Bear' Bryant and the Crimson Tide's national title in 1991, a solid tight end emerged for Alabama football.

Howard Cross.

In three seasons from 1986-1988, Cross is probably most often remembered for his touchdown reception against Notre Dame in 1986, or quite possibly his two-touchdown performance against Mississippi State in his senior season of 1988.

Regardless of what he is most remembered for, Cross finished his career at Alabama with 41 receptions for 459 yards — an average of 11.2 yards per catch — and four touchdowns.

Cross was drafted by the New York Giants in the 1989 NFL Draft and played for the franchise for 13 seasons. In total, he played 207 games for the organization — the most in team history. While he was primarily used as a blocking tight end, Cross made 201 receptions for 2,194 yards and and 17 touchdowns, all without missing a single game.

In 2010, Cross was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. He is currently a sports broadcaster in New York City.

3. Irv Smith, Jr.

When taking a glance at Irv Smith Jr.'s stats, one might not be that impressed upon the initial glance.

That is, until you realize that his stats all came in only two seasons.

Smith didn't see action as a freshman at Alabama in 2016, but the hit the ground running during his sophomore campaign. During his second season, Smith totaled 14 receptions in nine games for 128 yards and three touchdowns.

It was his junior season, however, where things really took off. In 2018, Smith recorded 44 receptions for 710 yards and seven touchdowns — one of the best single-season performances by a tight end in Crimson Tide program history.

However, his time with Alabama was cut short, as Smith declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season. In 2019, Smith was drafted in the second round at pick No. 50 by the Minnesota Vikings, where he still plays to this day.

2. O.J. Howard

Out with the old Howard, and in with the new.

O.J. Howard has so far been head and shoulders above every other tight end of the Saban era of Alabama football. In terms of numbers, it doesn't even really come close.

Howard finished his four-year stint with the Crimson Tide in 2016, and amassed a remarkable 114 catches for 1726 yards throughout that period — an average of 15.1 yards per reception. In terms of touchdowns, Howard is second only to Smith in the Saban era, having scored seven touchdowns in four seasons.

Howard was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft at pick No. 19 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who he still plays for today. While he suffered a torn Achilles tendon in 2020 that kept him sidelined for the majority of the season, he still picked up his first Super Bowl ring as a member of the franchise when his Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in February.

1. Ozzie Newsome

When talking about former Crimson Tide tight ends, one name quickly rises above the rest: Ozzie Newsome.

As it should.

Newsome played for Alabama from 1974-1977, and his records at the position still stand to this day. Through four seasons, Newsome totaled 102 receptions for 2070 yards — an average of an incredible 20.3 yards per reception. Regarding touchdowns, Newsome accounted for 16.

At the end of the 1970s, Newsome was named the Alabama Player of the Decade. He was also named All-SEC in both 1976 and 1977, as well as SEC Lineman of the Year in 1977 by the Birmingham Quarterback Club and the Atlanta Touchdown Club.

In 1994, Newsome was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Newsome was the No. 23 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns, where he remained for 13 seasons. While there, he played in three Pro Bowls in 1981, 1984 and 1985 and was named First Team All-Pro in 1985.

When it comes to Alabama tight ends, there still to this day hasn't been another player quite like Newsome.

The Tide Top 5 will appear every day during the month of June on BamaCentral

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