TUSCALOOSA — Taking the podium in a red Alabama collared shirt, Crimson Tide receiver ArDarius Stewart said he remembers being in the same position when he first joined the squad in 2013.
Stewart, a redshirt junior, was one of three Alabama players who declared early for the NFL draft Friday, joining junior left tackle Cam Robinson and redshirt sophomore Marlon Humphrey.
“It’s funny I’m standing here, because when I was getting recruited I came in here joking around,” Stewart said. “I had the same little dreads and the same little twist and I came here and I pointed, stood up here with none of you guys in here. I see it now and it’s coming true. I’ve been through a lot in my life and it’s something that’s just amazing.”
All three players played significant roles in the Tide’s 2015 national title and are a big part of the Alabama’s run of three straight SEC titles and three straight trips to the College Football Playoff. While the players will be missed by the team, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he enjoys moments like this and said he is proud of the achievements each player has produced during their Tide career.
“Each one of these individuals has done an outstanding job of doing the right things when it comes to developing a career off the field by making progress toward a degree and putting themselves in position to graduate in the next year, as well as the great job that they've done in helping themselves develop a career on the field with the contribution they've made. ... These players all know that they are part of the fabric of this organization and the brand that they've created here is something that we want them to continue to build on and know that they are always welcome back and a part of the University of Alabama program,” Saban said.
Robinson is the highest projected pick of the three, receiving a first-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board. The 6-foot-6, 310 pound left tackle was selected as a permanent team captain this season and also took home the Outland Trophy and SEC Jacobs Blocking Trophy. Since joining the Tide in 2014, Robinson has started every game at left tackle for Alabama.
“I just want to prove that I’m a well-rounded player, and I can help a team at any phase they need me to help, in any way they need me to help,” Robinson said. “I’m going to prove that I’m a good guy, just let the team get to know me.”
Projected as the No. 16 pick in CBSSports.com’s latest mock draft, Robinson’s talent and size is unquestioned for the next level. However, he will have to answer questions in relation to a May arrest on guns and marijuana charges in his hometown of Monroe, La.
“I’m prepared for that,” Robinson said. “I’ll answer any questions that they ask.”
Stewart leaves after leading the Tide in receiving this season with 864 yards and eight touchdowns on 54 receptions. He said he received a second-round draft grade, which was the deciding factor in his decision to declare early.
“It’s crazy, it’s unreal,” Stewart said. “Like I said earlier, I’m just blessed to be in the position I’m in, and I’m just going to see how far we get with it.”
Stewart, who has two children, said being able to provide for his family with an NFL contract also played a big role in his decision.
“You guys know that I have a junior and I have a daughter, that was a deciding factor as well,” Stewart said. “They are going to need things in life. I just got to provide that for them.”
Humphrey leaves after playing just two seasons with the Tide. This season, the redshirt sophomore tallied two interceptions, returning his first for a touchdown in the opener against Southern California. Humphrey said he didn’t even look at his grade but was told he would be selected anywhere from the first to second round.
“When I was a freshman in high school, my brother just went to go play ball in the SEC, and I wrote down a list of goals,” Humphrey said during his speech. “One of those goals was to play in the Under Armour game. One of those goals to win a national championship. One of those goals was to be an All-American.”
Accomplishing all three of those goals, Humphrey said he made the decision Wednesday to declare early after talking it over with his family. Humphrey’s father, Bobby Humphrey, is a former Alabama running back who played in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins.
During his speech Humphrey referred to his father as his role model. However, when it came down to making a final decision, the star cornerback said his dad told him to trust his gut.
“It really kind of came down to me,” Humphrey said. “They both gave me positives, they both gave me negatives, and then I just kind of made the decision.”