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Four Tide players picked in first round

On Thursday night, four former University of Alabama stars had their lives changed forever as they were chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. Millions of dollars are poised to flood into their respective bank accounts as they begin their professional careers around the country. But as we project their stardom at the next level, it’s also a good time to reflect on where they came from and how they got to where they are today.

Trent Richardson

Recruiting ranking: No. 6 overall, No. 1 running back

What he looked like: He was grown before he put on the crimson and white, coming in at 5-foot-11, 219 pounds.

When we knew: Scouts knew Richardson was going to be special back when he graduated from Escambia High (Fla.) in 2009. It was just a matter of time until the rest of the world took notice. And his freshman year, they did. Still a backup to Mark Ingram, Richardson ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns in just his second game on campus.

Drafted: No. 3 overall, Cleveland Browns

Mark Barron

Recruiting ranking: No. 19 athlete, No. 11 overall in Alabama

What he looked like: A 6-foot-2, 202-pound ball hawk at Saint Paul’s Episcopal School (Mobile, Ala.), built like a receiver with the flexibility to play defensive back or linebacker.

When we knew: In 2009, Barron really came on. The sophomore safety was a first team All-SEC selection in his first year starting at strong safety. That year he finished with 76 tackles and led the league in passes defended.

Drafted: No. 7 overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dre Kirkpatrick

Recruiting ranking: No. 4 overall, No. 1 cornerback

What he looked like: At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, coaches already knew he’d be something special, blessed with innate physical tools that projected to the next level.

When we knew: In 2010, Kirkpatrick blossomed into the starter many envisioned he would become. He was a sure tackler and shutdown corner for the Tide as they went 11-3 that year. Against Florida he had a tackle for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery.

Drafted: No. 17 overall, Cincinnati Bengals

Dont’a Hightower

Recruiting ranking: No. 26 defensive end

What he looked like: 6-foot-3, 248 pounds of raw ability, lacking the form he’d later develop under coach Nick Saban.

When we knew: We knew Hightower was going to be special was back in 2008, earning Freshman All-American recognition as one of two true freshmen to start for the Tide. But 2009 gave that thought pause as he missed the entire season with a tear of the ACL. In 2010 he returned to form and last year firmly cemented his first-round status as a consensus first-team All-American on the best defense in the country.

Drafted: No. 25 overall, New England Patriots