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AP photo by Dave Martin / Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones celebrates a Crimson Tide score during a home game against Mississippi State on Oct. 27, 2012.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first story in a series counting down the top five players in University of Alabama football history. Companion series are planned for Georgia (May 11-15) and Tennessee (May 18-22).

Barrett Jones always looked like the fresh-faced guy tapping the keg at a fraternity party, but during his time as an Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman he was a menace in the trenches, making Southeastern Conference history by earning all-league honors at three positions.

Jones is the perfect starting point in the countdown of the top five players in Alabama history based solely on their college accomplishments. John Hannah, Dwight Stephenson, Chris Samuels and Andre Smith were stellar Tide offensive lineman who had far superior NFL careers compared to Jones, who lasted just two seasons with the St. Louis Rams but took a back seat to nobody during his time in Tuscaloosa.

The former four-star prospect from Evangelical Christian near Memphis was a dominant component on three national championship teams under Nick Saban, who likened the 6-foot-5, 302-pounder's versatility to that of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. Saban was a Houston Oilers assistant from 1986-89.

"He's the only guy that I can remember who did what Barrett is doing now, so that's pretty high class there to be compared to someone like him," Saban said in 2012. "Barrett Jones has been an outstanding leader on our team on and off the field, and his academic record is absolutely as good as anybody we've ever had around."

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University of Alabama photo by Kent Gidley / Alabama's Barrett Jones became the first football player in SEC history to earn all-league honors at three positions, performing the feat at right guard in 2010, left tackle in 2011 and center in 2012.

After redshirting in 2008, Jones started all 14 games at right guard and earned Freshman All-America honors for the 2009 Tide, who went undefeated, won the program's first national championship in 17 seasons and produced the school's first Heisman Trophy winner — running back Mark Ingram. Jones remained at right guard in 2010, earning All-SEC honors for the first time, before moving to left tackle in 2011.

During the 2011 regular season, Jones played 587 snaps and was graded with only nine missed assignments. He earned All-SEC and All-America honors and cleaned house on the awards circuit, winning the Jacobs Trophy as the SEC's top blocker and the Outland Trophy as college football's top lineman.

Alabama's biggest need after the 2011 season was at center due to the graduation of three-year starter William Vlachos, so Jones moved inside knowing he wouldn't have the same spotlight as a senior.

"What little glory the offensive line has, the left tackle hogs about 90% of it," Jones said the summer before his final season.

Jones repeated All-SEC and All-America honors as a senior, and he won the Rimington Award as the nation's top center. In his Tide finale, Jones anchored a front that paved the way for 153 first-half rushing yards on 23 carries as Alabama built a 28-0 lead in its eventual 42-14 shellacking of Notre Dame in the BCS title game of the 2012 season.

In addition to his football achievements, Jones posted a 4.0 undergraduate GPA and earned a master's degree in accounting weeks before the Tide's demolishing of the Fighting Irish. He is the only four-time Academic All-American in Tide football history.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

 

READ MORE STORIES IN THE SERIES

SEC football series will reveal all-time best players for Tide, Bulldogs, Vols

Alabama

No. 4: Tua Tagovailoa set NCAA career efficiency mark in limited time

No. 3: Ozzie Newsome was top player during top decade of SEC dominance

No. 2: Cornelius Bennett was first linebacker voted SEC player of year

No. 1: Derrick Thomas set sack standards that may never be topped

Georgia

No. 5: Versatile Frank Sinkwich became SEC's first Heisman winner in 1942

No. 4: David Pollack's play against South Carolina ignited three-time All-America career

No. 3: Bill Stanfill savored 'pounding' Steve Spurrier-led Gators

No. 2: Charley Trippi set multiple SEC records weeks after completing military service

No. 1: Herschel Walker had best three-year run in college football history

Tennessee

No. 5: Fuad Reveiz set records while helping save the Johnny Majors era

No. 4: Three-time All-American Bob Suffridge was 30-0 in regular-season games

No. 3: Johnny Majors is program's only two-time SEC player of the year

No. 2: Peyton Manning went out as SEC champion, NCAA all-time wins leader

No. 1: Reggie White more than 'ministered' to team's defensive needs

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