The world of sports is rife with tradition. There is the lore of the green jacket at Augusta National every April when The Master’s PGA tournament is held.
There isn’t another race that is full of as much tradition as the Indianapolis 500. College basketball’s roots run rampant through the campuses of North Carolina, UCLA, Duke, Indiana, Kentucky and Kansas.
College football is also filled with tradition. And one of the most storied places in the history of college football is the University of Alabama’s campus in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama football brings to light thoughts of national championships, Bear Bryant and a bevy of talented football players who have gone on to leave their marks in professional football and the world in general.
The University of Alabama has had so many great football players that it would be difficult to choose the 10 best players in the school’s history. But it is safe to say that the University of Alabama football program wouldn’t be what it is today if not for the following 10 players.
These 10 Alabama greats made contributions that left a lasting legacy on the school and its football program:
Don Hutson (1932-34)
Hutson was the first true wide receiver in the National Football League for the Green Bay Packers after he graduated from Alabama in 1935. Hutson helped transform the NFL from a run oriented league into one in which the field was opened up through the passing game.
Through 2007, Hutson still held eight NFL receiving records. Hutson’s receiving prowess helped lead the Packers to three championships during his 11 years with the team.
Hutson has a street in Green Bay named after him and the Packers’ indoor practice facility is named Don Huston Center.
Bart Starr (1952-55)
After starring for the University of Alabama in the mid 1950s, Starr went on to play for legendary Green Bay Packers’ head coach Vince Lombardi from 1956-1971. Starr helped lead the Packers to NFL Championships in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967.
Starr was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1977. He also went on to coach the Packers from 1975-1983. The NFL gives its annual Bart Starr Award to the player having the most upstanding character in the league.
Lee Roy Jordan (1960-62)
Jordan was an undersized linebacker who recorded 30 tackles and was named the MVP of the 1962 Orange Bowl to help cap Alabama’s successful season.
Jordan went on to star for the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL and was named to five Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls. Jordan is the leading tackler in Cowboys’ history.
Jordan is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Dallas Cowboys’ Ring of Honor.
Joe Namath (1962-64)
While Namath won’t ever be confused with Starr and his upstanding character, there is no denying the mark he made at Alabama and in professional football.
Namath led Alabama to a 29-4 record and the National Championship in 1964. Bear Bryant called Namath “the greatest athlete I ever coached.” Namath could have starred for Alabama’s basketball team because he was such a good athlete.
Namath will forever be remembered for his guarantee in Super Bowl III in 1969 when he told the world that his upstart Jets would knock off Don Shula’s heavily favored Baltimore Colts.
Namath’s career numbers are far from impressive, but he changed the game of professional football.
Kenny Stabler (1965-67)
Much like Namath, Stabler will never be known as a choirboy while at the University of Alabama. Stabler helped lead Alabama to its second-consecutive National Championship in 1965 and went on to post a 28-3-2 record as a starter at the school.
Stabler went on to lead the Oakland Raiders and legendary coach John Madden to the 1977 Super Bowl title in the NFL. He won the NFL’s MVP Award in 1974 and was named to four Pro Bowls.
John Hannah (1970-72)
Hannah was named by Sports Illustrated in 1981 as the “best offensive lineman of all time.” Hannah was named an NCAA All-American twice during his time at Alabama and he went on to play for the New England Patriots from 1976-1985.
Hannah was named to nine NFL Pro Bowls and was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1991.
Ozzie Newsome (1974-77)
Newsome, who became known as the “Wizard of Oz,” basically made the tight end position an offensive weapon instead of primarily a blocking position at the collegiate level.
At Alabama, he helped lead the Crimson Tide to a 42-5 record and was named to the NCAA All-America team in 1977. Newsome went on to start 198 consecutive games for the Cleveland Browns and caught a pass in 150-straight games.
Newsome still holds the Cleveland franchise records for receptions (692) and yards (7,980) and was inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1999. Newsome is currently the General Manager for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
Cornelius Bennett (1983-86)
Bennett won the prestigious Lombardi Award in 1986 as the nation’s best defensive lineman or linebacker. He was such an impact player at Alabama that he finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1986.
Bennett played in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills from 1987-1995 and won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award twice (1988 and 1991). Bennett was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and was named to the NFL’s Pro Bowl five times between 1988 and 1993.
Derrick Thomas (1985-88)
Thomas is known as one of the best pass rushers in the history of organized football and he won the Butkus Award in 1988 as the nation’s best linebacker while at Alabama.
While a rookie with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989, Thomas won the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award and he went on to be named to nine Pro Bowls.
Thomas still holds the NFL record for sacks in a single game when he sacked Seattle’s Dave Krieg seven times.
In 2009, Thomas was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 33 due to complications from an automobile accident.