For Alabama football, this historic national championship run was four years in the making | Segrest

Doug Segrest
Special to the Advertiser

A season like no other culminated as a masterpiece for Alabama, four years after it began.

Ignited by the star-studded 2017 signing class, seasoned by a last-minute national championship win against Georgia, forged by a bond that became a public show of unity over the summer, it all ended with a perfect run in a most imperfect season.

No. 1 Alabama dominated No. 3 Ohio State 52-24 in Miami on Monday night for its sixth national title in 12 seasons under Nick Saban.

All because of the usual suspects.

Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, Alabama’s second option until Jaylen Waddle’s October injury, set championship game receiving records by halftime, validating voters with a video-game performance for the ages before departing with an injury.

More:How the Crimson Tide dominated the Buckeyes for the national championship

Mac Jones, penciled in by fans and media to be a placeholder at quarterback this season, threw for four touchdowns and 342 yards – in a half – while finishing with 464 for the game.

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA;  Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) catches a touchdown pass from Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) with Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland (32) defending during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

And running back Najee Harris scored twice on the ground and once through the air, mixing punishing hits with ballet escapes for 154 multi-threat yards.

The trio of Heisman top vote-getters came in together four years ago as part of that storied freshman class, arguably the best in college history.

Monday night’s performance settled another argument. This was the final performance of the greatest offense in college football history, which put up gaudy numbers against 13 Power Five opponents, 11 SEC rivals and five top-10 teams.

All fueled by the star power from the Class of ’17, and its leadership.

Such as the Outland Trophy offensive tackle putting it on the line one final time. Alex Leatherwood also emerged as a leader over the summer, leading his team in a march and a lyrical video for justice that resonated across the nation.

Linebacker Dylan Moses played all season in pain and frustration, the result of missing the entire 2019 season and returning with limits from ACL surgery. Yet he played a major role in bottling Ohio State’s own explosive offense Monday night.

Two arrivals from different classes provided an emotional spark. Waddle, believed lost for the season with an ankle injury four weeks in, returned to the field and had three catches to extend drives and set up scores.

And All-American center Landon Dickerson, out with injury since the SEC Championship Game, dressed out and represented the Crimson Tide for the coin toss, then returned for two finals snaps in the victory formation.

This was historic on so many levels.

More: Crimson Tide ace Ohio State to win national championship

This was Saban’s seventh national title overall, breaking Bear Bryant’s record, and his first perfect season since the 2009 team began the run at Alabama.

And it was the second for this remarkable class. The first came on the stunning second-and-26 ending against Georgia, when one freshman, Tua Tagovailoa, hit another, Smith, for the title-winning touchdown in the 2018 finale.

This is a team that sent four of the first 15 picks into the NFL Draft last spring then endured six months in the midst of the pandemic wondering if there would even be a season.

Of course, there was, with an assist from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey’s leadership.

And, for Alabama, it was unforgettable.

Doug Segrest, a former SEC beat reporter, is a freelance columnist for the Montgomery Advertiser.