It's Oct. 22, 2012, and Dee Milliner is sitting in the sports information office at Alabama's sparkling Mal Moore Athletic Facility. He has no idea that he is just three months away from another BCS championship. He has no idea that in five months he will set the NFL draft combine on its ear (and nearly break Twitter) by running the 40-yard dash in 4.31 and 4.37 seconds. And he has no idea that by March 7, he not only will be ranked first among cornerbacks in both Mel Kiper's and Todd McShay's mock drafts, but both draft analysts will have him among the top five players overall in what looks to be a defense-dominated first round.
"I don't have any idea what's going to happen with me and the NFL," Milliner confessed in October, already aware of too-early knocks on his ability to turn and run. Then he leaned forward for emphasis, looking decidedly smaller in just a T-shirt and workout shorts than his listed 6-foot-1, 199 pounds. "But here's what I know about playing at Alabama. Nowhere is going to have me better prepared for professional football than this place right here."
Milliner is not wrong. At the close of the 2012-13 season, there were 33 Crimson Tide alums on NFL rosters. That's not tops among all FBS schools -- USC has more -- but it's a significant total.
However, when you talk to the people who make their livings evaluating NFL talent, they don't gush about Alabama's quantity of pros. They're too busy drooling over the quality.