Alabama has produced some of the best offensive line men in NFL history. There's Hall of Fame guard John Han nah, 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 rare."
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 the NFL.