Alabama Football: The 10 Greatest Crimson Tide Players in NFL History
The great state of Alabama has no NFL team to help fans kill the time between college football seasons.
This has not stopped the Crimson Tide from producing seven NFL Hall of Famers. Alabama players have often donned NFL jerseys in place of their crimson and white garb.
This article will focus on the top 10 players who excelled at the next level. Though this list could change in years to come, the men at the top will likely stand above the rest for decades to come.
*Unless otherwise noted/linked, stats and information are from the NFL Record and Fact Book or profootballhof.com
10. Cornelius Bennett (LB)
Cornelius Bennett holds the record for most appearances in the Super Bowl by an Alabama alumnus with five. He appeared four times with the Bills and once with the Falcons.
Unfortunately, he would not come away victorious from any of them. Before retirement, he would add two AFC Defensive Player of the Year awards to his credit in 1988 and 1991.
"Settling" for five championship rings is something a lot of players would do in a heartbeat. It is the NFL, after all.
9. Lee Roy Jordan (LB)
November 4, 1973: Jordan intercepts three passes from Ken Anderson within five minutes. (All in the first quarter, for those who are curious.)
This article from ESPN's Frank Luska lists that feat as the sixth most memorable moment in Texas Stadium history.
Jordan is still second on the career tackles leaderboard for the Dallas Cowboys with 743.
Jordan was the very definition of an impact player and the opposing offenses felt his impact terribly.
8. Derrick Thomas (LB)
...sacking Elway: priceless.
Derrick Thomas was a beast on defense in the NFL, registering a record seven sacks in a single game (November 11, 1990 vs. the Seahawks). His 116.5 career sack total still stands as a Kansas City record as well.
He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1989 and was named to that year's Pro Bowl. He was selected to the next eight Pro Bowls for a total of nine straight appearances.
His arrival at Kansas City marked a turning point for the franchise, as he led them into an era marked by seven playoff appearances and three divisional titles. Previously, the Chiefs had made the postseason just once since 1971.
His career was cut short by a car accident following the 1999 regular season, from which he would not recover.
Still, his career earned him a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 2009. It seems fitting for him to have been inducted in the same month Alabama won a national championship.
7. Kenny Stabler (QB)
Though it's from Stabler's Tide days, it's still a blast to hear Bryant's comments.
Kenny Stabler led the Raiders to their first-ever Super Bowl win in 1977 (Super Bowl XI) and was also the NFL passing champion in 1976.
Stabler hit the 100-win mark faster than any quarterback before him in his 150th NFL game. (Previous fastest was Johnny Unitas, who won his 100th in his 153rd game.)
As far as legendary plays, Stabler's "Ghost to the Post" play is etched into NFL lore much like his "Run in the Mud" stands at the Capstone.
6. Dwight Stephenson (C)
Dwight Stephenson started his first game for the Miami Dolphins in late 1981 and his rise to stardom was meteoric. He earned All-Pro honors five years in a row beginning in 1983 (four years as a starter).
The Dolphins allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL for six straight years and Stephenson is given a lot of the credit for that as the Offensive Team Captain and leader of the O-Line.
Unfortunately, a knee injury would cut his NFL career short, though it would not stop him from being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, as he was given that honor in 1998.
5. Ozzie Newsome (TE)
Newsome is one of seven NFL Hall of Famers on this list. When Newsome was a rookie for the Cleveland Browns (1978), he was the Offensive Player of the Year for the program. It was the first time in 25 years that a rookie had earned the honor.
After a hot start in the NFL, the "Wizard of Oz" went on to a Hall of Fame career. He appeared in three Pro Bowls and played in 198 consecutive games for the Browns.
Newsome was one of the greatest TEs in the history of the NFL. Two records he still holds for the Browns are 662 career receptions and 7,980 receiving yards.
Neither of those records are TE-specific. That's not bad for a guy that was a rookie 30 years ago.
4. John Hannah (OT)
The clip of the Sports Illustrated cover shown (left) makes plain the biggest reason for John Hannah's inclusion on this list.
Hannah was named an All-Pro a mind-numbing 10 straight years (1976-1985) during his 13-year career. In 1978 he and the rest of his offensive line blew up the opposition en route to an NFL-record 3,165 rushing yards for their backs.
Yes, that record still stands...33 years later.
In 1991 he was the first Patriot ever inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
3. Joe Namath (QB)
Joe Namath would answer Bart Starr's back-to-back Super Bowl MVP performances with an MVP performance of his own in Super Bowl III.
He led the Jets to a 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts in the same Orange Bowl that Starr won Super Bowl II.
With his victory in Super Bowl III, Alabama alumni were now undefeated on the biggest of all stages in professional football.
Namath was the first quarterback ever to throw for over 4,000 yards in a single season. His record of 4,007 passing yards would stand until the season was expanded to more than 14 games.
Namath was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1985.
2. Bart Starr (QB)
Left, 1970; right, 2008. (source: aarp.org)
Bart Starr is a legend in the NFL. Before the Super Bowl was born, he led the Green Bay Packers to three championships (from findthedata.org) in 1961, 1962 and 1965.
His two Super Bowl victories would come in 1966 and 1967, making him a back-to-back-to-back national champion. As the MVP of Super Bowls I and II, he established himself as the (green and) gold standard for quarterbacks in the NFL.
As if that weren't enough, Starr and his wife made the most significant contribution ever to the Packers Hall of Fame back in 2010 (via yardbarker.com).
Starr was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1977.
1. Don Hutson (WR)
Don Hutson was the original wide receiver, running routes in his day that wouldn't be called "routes" for quite some time.
Hutson's name is still etched in the NFL Record Book 13 times and he retired in 1945. Records that still stand include the following:
1) Most consecutive seasons leading league in scoring: 5
2) Most points scored in a quarter: 29
3) Most seasons leading league in receiving touchdowns: 9
Don Hutson, or the Alabama Antelope, was a game-changing player at his position. Now that everybody has a stack of WRs, the odds of one standing out like Hutson ever again are minimal.
Hutson was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1963.