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Alabama Patriots: Saban-Belichick Pipeline Stronger Than Ever

No NFL team boasts more Alabama players than New England.

If you're going to have a farm system, might as well partner with the most successful college football program over the last 15 years. Call them the Alabama Patriots.

Shockingly - given New England's draft history and the close relationship between Bill Belichick and Nick Saban - the Patriots did not select an Alabama player in last month's NFL Draft. But they quickly moved to keep the Tuscaloosa-to-Foxoboro pipeline open, signing defensive tackle LaBryan Ray as an undrafted free agent.

That transaction gave the Patriots six former Crimson Tide players on their 2022 roster, most in the league ahead of the Cleveland Browns, Las Vegas Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins (five each).

Patriots - Christian Barmore
Patriots - Belichick Saban
Damien Harris

Since 2009, Alabama has won six national championships. Since 2002, the Patriots have won six Super Bowls.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Ray became New England’s second defensive tackle from the Crimson Tide, joining Christian Barmore, a second-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.

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“I was excited, man,” Barmore said of his reaction when Ray called to tell him the news. “I ain’t going to lie, I was a little crying, because that was my dog.”

Barmore said he and Ray were roommates as well as teammates at Alabama.

“He’s going to be a great player,” Barmore said. “I’m really excited for him to be here. We’ve been playing with each other for three years. It’s really a blessing, him coming here. It’s crazy. Got a lot of them guys here. But LaBryan Ray is my guy. I’m really excited for his future.”

The other Alabama alumni on New England’s roster include running back Damien Harris, linebacker Anfernee Jennings, quarterback Mac Jones and linebacker Mack Wilson.

Patriots - Christian Barmore Alabama
Mac Jones
Patriots - Mack Wilson Alabama

Belichick and Saban have a friendship that dates back to the 1980s when Saban coached with Belichick's father at Navy. They became friends at the time and have become close confidants over the years.

Belichick helped Saban break into the NFL ranks. Saban worked under him as defensive coordinator when the two were with the Browns. That helped springboard Saban to the head coaching job at Michigan State. From there, Saban went to LSU, became divisional rivals with Belichick for two years with the Dolphins and then eventually landed at Alabama.