Learning the ABCs of Alabama Crimson Tide Football: "R"

Christopher WoodleyContributor IIIDecember 30, 2011

Following in the footsteps of your older brother is always difficult. Whether it's sports or academics, there are often comparisons and expectations.

Quarterback Jeff Rutledge heard all of the expectations and created his own legacy at Alabama.

A native of Birmingham, Rutledge came to Tuscaloosa in 1975 two years after his older brother Gary was the starting quarterback on the 1973 national championship team.

Rutledge became the starting quarterback as a sophomore in 1976. Despite starting the season 2-2, Alabama rebounded to finish 9-3, capped by a 38-6 win over UCLA in the Liberty Bowl. During the regular season, Rutledge finished with 979 passing yards and eight touchdowns.  

Rutledge led Alabama to an 11-1 record in 1977, but the Crimson Tide finished second in the rankings to national champion Notre Dame. He had his best statistical season in Tuscaloosa, passing for 1,207 yards and eight touchdowns.

Rutledge also ran for 311 yards and four touchdowns. Ironically, all five of Rutledge's interceptions that season came on Sept. 17 at Nebraska. His interception total tied a single-game school record in Nebraska's 31-24 victory.

After losing to Nebraska, Alabama reeled off 10 consecutive victories. In the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State, Rutledge earned game MVP honors after passing for 109 yards and two touchdowns in a convincing 35-6 win.  

For the third consecutive season in 1978, Rutledge led Alabama to an SEC Championship. A win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl would guarantee the Crimson Tide a chance to play for the national championship.

Three touchdown passes by Rutledge led Alabama to a 34-16 win. He became just the second Crimson Tide quarterback with three touchdowns passes in a game against the Tigers. During the regular season, Rutledge passed for 1,078 yards and 13 touchdowns.  

The 1979 Sugar Bowl against top-ranked Penn State will always be remembered for Alabama's goal line stand in the fourth quarter en route to a 14-7 win and the national championship. However, Rutledge's leadership on a first half drive should not be forgotten. 

Starting at their own 20 and 1:32 remaining in a scoreless first half, Rutledge drove the Crimson Tide to the Penn State 30-yard line. With eight seconds remaining, Rutledge found wide receiver Bruce Bolton in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown reception and a 7-0 halftime lead. Rutledge finished the game 8-of-15 for 91 yards and a touchdown.

During his Alabama career, Rutledge was a two-time All-SEC selection in 1977 and 1978 and was a Second Team All-American in 1978. Rutledge finished his Alabama career 199-of-356 for 3,264 yards and a school record 30 touchdowns (since broken). He also previously held the school record with 100 pass completions without an interception.  

Rutledge was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the ninth round of the 1979 NFL draft. During his 14-year career, he served as a backup quarterback and holder on kicks for the Rams, New York Giants and Washington. He earned Super Bowl rings with the Giants and Redskins.

Ten years after his playing career ended, Rutledge began his coaching career on the high school level. From 2007 to 2008, he served as the Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks coach. After an assistant coaching stint in the United Football League, Rutledge returned to high school coaching in Tennessee.