Football in the Southeastern Conference is known for speed and high-powered offenses. Thus, it is necessary to have a good secondary to combat the talented wide receivers. One player who was one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC during his stint at Alabama was DeShea Townsend.
A native of Batesville, Miss., Townsend attended South Panola High School and played with future Alabama teammate Dwayne Rudd. He quarterbacked the team to a 1993 Mississippi state championship.
Townsend made an immediate impact as a freshman in 1994. His best game was in the regular season finale against Auburn. Townsend finished with a team-high nine tackles as the Crimson Tide posted a 21-14 win over the Tigers. The following week against Florida in the SEC Championship Game, Townsend again led Alabama with seven tackles and added an interception in the 24-23 loss to the Gators.
Townsend was also a member of the special teams. He was the primary punt returner in 1994 with 12 returns for 151 yards (12.8 average). However, his greatest special teams moment occurred the following season.
On Sept. 30, 1995 at Georgia, Shannon Brown blocked Kanon Parkman's 27-yard field goal attempt. Townsend caught the ball and ran 90 yards for the touchdown. It was only the second field goal attempt to be blocked and returned for a touchdown in school history.
Alabama eventually won the game, 31-0, against Townsend's future Pittsburgh Steelers teammate, Hines Ward, who was the Bulldogs starting quarterback.
Townsend also had a key interception later in the 1995 season against LSU on Nov. 4. Tied at three early in the fourth quarter, Townsend intercepted a Jamie Howard pass and returned it 17 yards to the LSU 21-yard line.
His interception set up Dennis Riddle's 2-yard touchdown run that proved to be the difference in Alabama's 10-3 win. He also intercepted Mississippi State quarterback Derrick Taite late in the game to seal a 14-9 victory and the 15th consecutive win over the Bulldogs. Townsend was second on the Crimson Tide with four interceptions in 1995.
In each of his four seasons from 1994 to 1997, Townsend led Alabama in pass breakups. After 13 combined pass breakups in his first two seasons, Townsend tied teammate Fernando Bryant with 14 pass breakups as a junior in 1996. He led the Crimson Tide with 11 pass breakups as a senior.
Townsend was a three-time All-SEC performer from 1995 to 1997. After his senior season, Townsend was selected to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Townsend was selected by Pittsburgh in the fourth round of the 1998 NFL draft. He played for the Steelers from 1998 to 2009 and recorded 21 career interceptions. Townsend also helped lead Pittsburgh to a pair of Super Bowl victories. After one season with Indianapolis, Townsend was named defensive backs assistant coach with the Arizona Cardinals in 2011.
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