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Alabama kicker makes history during this year’s NFL draft

Alabama kicker Will Reichard runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/AP
Alabama kicker Will Reichard runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

It took six rounds and a whole lot of waiting, but former Alabama kicker Will Reichard made Crimson Tide history during the 2024 NFL draft. The Minnesota Vikings picked the one position where former Head Coach Nick Saban saw no players join the NFL during his career at Alabama. Reichard is the first Tide kicker to be drafted since 1966, and reportedly only the third chosen by the Vikings in the last forty five years.

Reicherd will join former teammate Dallas Turner who was chosen by Minnesota at number seventeen in round one in the draft. Other former players with the Crimson Tide are settling into jobs in the NFL after this year’s draft. The New Orleans Saints picked cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry after the Alabama star found himself pushed to the second round by a crush of talent in round one. McKinstry couldn't participate in drills at the NFL scouting combine because of a broken bone in his right foot. But he ran at his pro day. Offensive tackle J.C. Latham is going to the New York Giants.

Reichard was picked late in the draft, but at least he’s not former Alabama safety Jaylen Key. The New York Jets chose the Tide player with the very last pick this year, earning Key the spot commonly known as “Mr. Irrelevant.”

The NFL draft has a new attendance record after more than 775,000 fans flooded downtown Detroit for the three-day event. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer revealed at Campus Martius Park during the third and final day of the draft that Detroit had broken the record, and the league later released its estimate of the crowd size. While it will take years to know if this year's picks delivered for their teams, there's no doubt that Detroit made the most of an opportunity to host the football spectacle and show 50-plus million viewers the new-look city. Motown beat Music City's three-day attendance record of 600,000 set in 2019, when fans filled Broadway in Nashville.

The NFL did not charge fans to attend the event in Detroit, though the visitors and area residents were expected to generate more than $160 million in economic impact at sold-out hotels, packed bars and restaurants, and retail stores in the heart of downtown. Twenty-plus teams are engaged in talks with the league to host a future draft, which is of particular interest in colder-climate cities that probably can't expect to get a Super Bowl.

Green Bay is on the clock as next year's host.

This year's edition kicked off with a very Detroit opening on Thursday night that included rap icon Eminem on stage with Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, along with current Lions stars Jared Goff, Aidan Hutchinson and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Chicago, as expected, drafted Southern California's Caleb Williams at number one overall. The Bears took Iowa punter Tory Taylor on Saturday in the fourth round.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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