Alabama junior linebacker C.J. Mosley stood front and center on the podium. Battle-worn and weary, C.J. didn’t even look excited as he hoisted the crystal trophy above his head, celebrating Alabama’s 15th national title.
After all, the game’s defensive Most Outstanding Player recipient had just played lights-out in one of the biggest games of his life. The linebacker, hailing from Theodore, Ala., had made himself known to the world on a national stage for his performance against Notre Dame.
Mosley finished the game leading the defense with eight total tackles – five solo – and tied for second with a tackle for loss. Mosley’s statistics in the game certainly weren’t gaudy, but he was constantly involved in the Alabama defensive success all night and all year.
“C.J. played consistently well for us all year long,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “I don’t really feel like he ever had a bad game. I think he loves to play. He’s a very active player. He’s very athletic, very instinctive, always seems to make a lot [of] plays.”
And make plays Mosley did.
In one play for the Tide, Mosley stuffed Fighting Irish running back Theo Riddick in the running lane before slamming him to the ground in a tackle that could be felt in the stands. On another, he contained scrambler Everett Golson en route to forcing him to throw out of bounds. And on another, he laterally pursued Riddick once again, knocking aside a would-be stiff arm before using perfect tackling technique to bring him down.
That’s what has made Mosley so successful at Alabama, not only in the championship game but the entire season. His combination of speed, power, control and cover skills makes him Alabama’s most valuable linebacker, if not its most versatile.
But even more impressive than Mosley’s versatility this season has been his consistency. In fact, the impressive game Mosley put together against Notre Dame wasn’t even Mosley’s most impressive performance on the year. It was simply the latest in a string of incredible games for him this season.
“When you look at the production, which we have a production chart on defense, he’s pretty consistently the guy that’s getting the most points game-in and game-out,” Saban said. “So I think his consistency and performance is what makes him a special player, and it really doesn’t matter who we’re playing against. He always seems to make a lot of plays. He had a great game last night.”
Saban wasn’t the only one impressed with the performance Mosley put on in the championship game either. Senior linebacker Nico Johnson also said he was impressed with his fellow linebacker’s level of play.
“C.J. has played great all year long,” Johnson said. “And I just try to keep him motivated to understand that he’s always got room for improvement, no matter how good things are or how bad things are. And that’s what happened.
“I’m just thankful he was a part of the team this year.”
Of course, Mosley didn’t achieve all his success in the game and the season without a little help. Senior defensive lineman Jesse Williams, who’s devoured more than his fair share of double teams to open lanes up for Mosley, has played a huge role in Mosley’s success.
Still, Williams said he was happy knowing he had a guy like Mosley behind him to finish up the work he started in the trenches.
“I’ve been grateful to be able to take double teams so that he can be able to make plays the past couple of years,” Williams said. “But he’s a great guy and deserves everything he got.”
Of course, Williams won’t be around for Mosley’s senior season at Alabama, a season in which he could prove himself to be one of the best linebackers in the nation. Both Williams and Johnson expressed how important he’ll be to Alabama’s success next season, as well.
“He’s going to be a real headache,” Johnson said. “Because next year, he’s going to play more faster. He’s going to get bigger in the offseason. He’s going to have fun more than he ever had, and he’s going to give them problems.”