35 Days Away from Bama Kickoff: DeMeco Ryans
Each day counting down to Alabama's Week 1 matchup with Utah State, I will highlight one former player whose jersey number coincides with the amount of days until the game. The Tide kicks off in 35 days, so let's look at a former Bama linebacker who has made quite the name for himself in the NFL, DeMeco Ryans.
DeMeco Ryans suited up as a linebacker for the Crimson Tide from 2002-05 under head coach Mike Shula, and finished his four-year career as one of the top defenders in program history.
Ryans, a three-star recruit out of Bessemer, AL, was the 39th ranked linebacker prospect in the nation, per Rivals.com, and chose Alabama over Mississippi State.
In his first season with the Tide, Alabama finished 10-3 and Ryans was just one of two true freshmen to see time, appearing in each of Alabama's 13 contests. He served as a backup linebacker and finished the year with 27 tackles, one of which came for a loss.
As a sophomore, Ryans took over as a starter and finished the year with a team-leading 126 tackles. He came just nine short of toppling Woodrow Lowe for the program record, but proved he was a force to be reckoned with.
2004 saw Ryans nearly lead the team in tackles once more, finishing second on the squad with 78. Though the linebacker put together another solid season, the Tide finished just 6-6, dropping key matchups to rivals Tennessee, LSU and Auburn.
In his final season with the team, Ryans put together his best year yet. The senior led the team in tackles again with 76 and also recorded 9.5 TFL's and 3.5 sacks. He was named a unanimous All-American and earned a spot on the All-
SEC First team for his play.
After his time in Tuscaloosa, Ryans was drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft to the Houston Texans. He spent six seasons in Houston, earning First Team All-Pro honors in 2007 and Pro Bowl nods in 2007 and 2009.
Ryans was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2011 season and spent four more years in the NFL before stepping away from playing. Across his 10-year career the Bessemer native compiled 970 tackles, 72 TFL's and 13.5 sacks.
Less than a year after playing his last down in the NFL, Ryans began his coaching career. He joined the San Francisco 49ers in 2018 and quickly worked his way up the ladder, earning inside linebackers coach in just his second year and defensive coordinator by his fourth.
Though several teams expressed interest in Ryans as a head coach this most recent offseason, he remained with the 49ers and looks to guide a very talented defensive unit in 2022.