Alabama has produced some of the best offensive linemen in NFL
history. There's Hall of Fame guard John Hannah, who starred for
the New England Patriots from 1973 to '85, and center Dwight
Stephenson, who dominated the line of scrimmage for the Miami
Dolphins during eight seasons in the '80s. Soon there may be
another name on that list: Crimson Tide senior left tackle Chris
Samuels. "We think one day he might be the best tackle ever to
play in the NFL," says Alabama coach Mike Dubose.
For the time being Samuels will have to be satisfied with
dominating on the college level. At 6'6" and 291 pounds, he has
remarkably quick feet and runs the 40 in 5.0. "Chris is so
agile, you'd swear he weighs 250," says Tide offensive
coordinator Neil Callaway, who has seen more than 20 of his
linemen ascend to the pros. "He's the best lineman I've ever
been around. His combination of size and athletic ability is
Samuels, who has played in 29 straight games and who was on the
field for 732 of Alabama's 744 offensive snaps last year, is a
big reason that running back Shaun Alexander is close to
becoming 'Bama's alltime leading rusher (he's 1,238 yards behind
Bobby Humphrey) and that quarterback Andrew Zow threw for a
freshman-school-record 1,969 yards in 1998.
"My brothers helped me prepare for life in football by beating
up on me all the time," says Samuels, the youngest in a family
of four football-crazy boys. "Now I'm bigger than all of them,
and they don't mess with me."
Samuels is projected to be the first offensive lineman taken in
the 2000 draft, although most pro scouts say he'll have to add
at least 15 pounds of muscle and improve his reads to thrive in
COLOR PHOTO: GREG FOSTER IDEAL NFL TEAM The Saints need a heavy-duty road grader to pave the way for Ricky Williams.