Tide pair, UAB star enter Senior Bowl Hall of Fame (2024)

The inaugural Senior Bowl Hall of Fame class featured two Alabama alumni. So did the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame Class of 2024 enshrined on Sunday night in the Grand Ballroom at the Grand Hotel Golf Club and Spa in Point Clear.

The five-player class included former Crimson Tide standouts Marty Lyons and DeMeco Ryans, as well as UAB’s Roddy White, Southern Cal’s Carson Palmer and Utah’s Eric Weddle.

Along with the Hall of Fame inductees, the Senior Bowl also recognized its 2023 NFL Rookie of the Year selections – Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua on offense and Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker YaYa Diaby and Rams outside linebacker Byron Young on defense.

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Already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Lyons waited the longest for the Senior Bowl honor in the Class of 2024. He played in the Mobile all-star game in 1979, then joined the New York Jets as the 14th selection in the NFL Draft and starred on their defensive line for the next 11 seasons.

“This was the game that you wanted to be invited to,” Lyons said on Sunday. “We were fortunate. We won the national championship that year, and then I went out and played in the East-West Shrine Game. But this was the invitation because you knew that you would be playing against the best college players and you knew that 32 NFL teams were coming down here to look at you and potentially draft you because there was no combine. So to come here and have an opportunity to represent the university, the coaching staff, my teammates and the fans, it was a privilege. Of course, we were fortunate enough that day to win, and the New York Jets were coaching the North team and apparently they saw something in me to make me their No. 1 pick a few months later. …

“I look back now 45 years later, and you kind of appreciate it more now than if it had happened right away. Forty-five years is a long time, and to still have the people at the Senior Bowl think that highly of you that they want to put you in the Hall of Fame, it’s truly a compliment to everybody that I’ve been around, and just very fortunate that God gave me the talent to play football and every time that I fell he gave me somebody there to pick me up.”

A prep star at Jess Lanier in Bessemer before earning All-American recognition as an Alabama linebacker, Ryans played in the 2006 Senior Bowl.

“It feels really special,” Ryans said. “I’m glad to be back here at the Senior Bowl after 18 years, glad to be back here getting such a humbling honor to be inducted into the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame. It’s such a great game for college football. It means a lot to a lot of athletes who have the chance to showcase their talents and to show how good they stack up against really solid competition from across the country. It’s a blessing to be here.”

The Houston Texans selected Ryans in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He returned to the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame as Houston’s coach.

“Now as a coach for me, the game is a must-watch because it gives you the chance to watch so many great athletes who I’m scouting and thinking about adding to our team,” Ryans said. “I get a chance to see them compete against each other at this game. It’s always been such an important step for guys who want to cross over into the NFL.”

After playing in the 2005 all-star game, White became the first UAB player to enter the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame.

“I really do appreciate the Senior Bowl even taking me into consideration, even electing me to the Hall of Fame,” White said. “It was a pleasure. When I came down here in ‘05, the Senior Bowl did a lot for me. It was my first opportunity to go against guys from different schools – from SEC schools, from ACC schools and things like that – so it opened up a lot of different opportunities for me.

“First time coming down here, we had Jon Gruden (as coach), so we got introduced to the West Coast system fairly early and the long calls and stuff like that, so it was a great introduction to the NFL. Just going through that whole week of practice and having a great time with the guys and being on the team with so many guys that you’d seen when you’d watch across the country be great all year and then come down here and have success, it was a major accomplishment for me, and it helped me get drafted in the first round. It was a good week for me.”

The Atlanta Falcons made White a first-round draft pick, and he spent his entire 11-season NFL career with the team.

Palmer played in the 2004 Senior Bowl, and Weddle played in the 2007 Senior Bowl.

The Senior Bowl Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1988, including former Alabama standouts Lee Roy Jordan and Joe Namath. A class has been chosen every year since except for 2011 and 2020. An NFL lockout scuttled the 2011 selections, and the coronavirus pandemic canceled the 2020 plans.

Lyons and Ryans are the first Alabama inductees since Billy Neighbors in the Class of 2019. Other Crimson Tide members of the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame include Ozzie Newsome, Cornelius Bennett, Bear Bryant, Bob Baumhower, Derrick Thomas, Jeremiah Castille, Richard Todd, Ray Perkins, Tony Nathan, E.J. Junior, Shaun Alexander, Sylvester Croom and Woodrow Lowe.

In conjunction with the Hall of Fame festivities, the fourth annual Senior Bowl Charities Celebrity Golf Classic will be held at the Grand Hotel’s Lakewood Golf Club on Monday. The event will feature foursomes that include celebrities from across the football world, including the new Senior Bowl Hall of Fame inductees and the Rookies of the Year.

Proceeds from the golf tournament benefit the Mobile Baldwin Athletic Partnership, established in 2021. This program provides resources ranging from pants and jerseys to blocking sleds and video technology for underfunded public school football programs in the two counties.

Tide pair, UAB star enter Senior Bowl Hall of Fame (1)

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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at@AMarkG1.

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Tide pair, UAB star enter Senior Bowl Hall of Fame (2024)
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