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Where are they now? OL Ben Tamburello

Former offensive lineman Ben Tamburello
Former offensive lineman Ben Tamburello

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and Auburn center Ben Tamburello more than impressed Eagles Head Coach Buddy Ryan at the 1987 Senior Bowl.

"Every time he took a stand on a guy, he stopped him right in his tracks," Ryan said. "He's strong enough to flip 'em over. He's tough and smart. He's got a lot of plusses on his side."

"I was fortunate to have come from a very physical background with (Auburn's) Pat Dye as far as contact and just work. And Buddy was the same way," Tamburello says. "Buddy was a no-nonsense tough guy. I was used to that and knew what to expect. That's what I came from, that environment, so I liked it. And I really liked him."

A consensus All-America center, Tamburello was chosen by Philadelphia in the third round of the 1987 NFL Draft.

"It was just like a whirlwind because you find out that you're drafted and then the next thing you know, you're on a flight the next day to Philly," Tamburello says. "Just excited, a dream come true. Couldn't wait to get up there. And Philly was a team that I had always followed, so I was very familiar with them."

One of three offensive linemen the Eagles selected in that year's draft – David Alexander and Brian Williams were the others – Tamburello would discover there was a lot more where they came from.

"One of the biggest eye-openers that I ever saw was my first practice. There were about 28 guys on the offensive line who were vying for eight positions," Tamburello says. "In Buddy's camp, the eight offensive linemen, you had five starters and three backups. So it was slim (chances of making the team). You look around and you see guys that are big, they're fast, they're strong, they can play football, and you wonder how am I going to do this?"

One way he could do it was by playing a different position.

"I'd never played anything but center until I got to Philadelphia," Tamburello says. "In the NFL, it's the more you can do. Buddy only kept eight offensive linemen and they're going to put the best players they can in those slots. If you've got somebody injured, it's a numbers thing, really. A couple of those opportunities are where I learned to play guard. And I snapped on field goals and punts. You just had to do more."

Placed on Injured Reserve after shattering his left thumb during a preseason game and then being part of a players' strike, the whirlwind that Tamburello experienced after being drafted lasted a bit longer than he would have thought.

"An injury and a strike your first year, you're like. 'Wow, this is a bumpy road,'" Tamburello laughed. "Obviously, the strike, I didn't have any control over, but you're not making money while you're on strike. So it was a commitment.

"But I'll tell you one thing, Buddy didn't expect anybody to come across that picket line. Some teams had players that crossed the picket line. We did not. We had a pretty tight, close-knit team. We were all committed."

Contributing as one of Ryan's three versatile backup linemen for five seasons with the Eagles, Tamburello also made spot starts, including in the 1990 playoff game against Washington.

"Experience in the pros is very valuable. A lot of times, it's more than just raw talent," Tamburello says. "You come across folks that are as good as you or better, and all you can do is the best you can and see what happens. I was on that bubble every year, so it was a big challenge for me. But that's the way the NFL is, very competitive."

Tamburello's post-playing careers have been competitive as well. Retiring from the game in 1992, he returned to Alabama and opened an insurance agency in Montgomery. And even though he had great success with the business over 10 years, he and his wife, Katie, chose to move their family to a city he was more familiar with, his native Birmingham.

"We have three children, and at that time, the oldest was in the third grade. We wanted to get them to Birmingham because it is known for some terrific schools. And it was my home," Tamburello says. "I wanted to get into something in sales so that I could hit the ground running, so to speak. Real estate is that. And it's a relationship business.

"It's wonderful because it's competitive. You're unemployed every day and go out and apply for a job every day. There's nobody that's going to give you a check, save for retirement. You've got to go make it happen."

An associate broker at RE/MAX Southern Homes in Birmingham, Tamburello lists and sells residential properties.

"It's a great market, but I've been through the ups and downs when they weren't this way," he says. "And so you're counseling people. You're kind of a teammate. You're involved with creating solutions to make big-time goals happen for people. And when it happens, it's just very gratifying."

The Tamburellos have three children: Ben, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and played on Navy's football team from 2012-16; Anna, who earned a degree in music therapy from Appalachian State; and Julia, who will be a freshman in the fall at Auburn University.

Former offensive lineman Ben Tamburello
Former offensive lineman Ben Tamburello

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