Alabama Football: Power Ranking Tide's Best NFL Players of All Time
Long before Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has been a factory pumping out some of the greatest players in NFL history.
Whether it was brash quarterbacks such as “Broadway” Joe Namath or game-changing talents such receiver Don Hutson or defensive end Derrick Thomas, a number of Tide alums have gone on to become dominant players after their college careers concluded.
Which former Tide stars rank among the program’s best NFL players of all time?
10. Lee Roy Jordan
One of the finest linebackers to ever suit up for legendary Tide coach Bear Bryant, Lee Roy Jordan’s 31-tackle effort in the 1963 Orange Bowl is one of the most dominant individual performances in Tide history.
Jordan went on to enjoy a strong career in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. He spent 14 years as a pillar for the Cowboys defense and racked up 32 career interceptions in that span, returning three of them for touchdowns.
Jordan earned Pro Bowl honors five times and helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl VI.
9. Ken Stabler
Ken “The Snake” Stabler succeeded Joe Namath at Alabama and compiled a 28-3-2 record in his three seasons as a starter.
A second-round selection of the Oakland Raiders in the 1968 NFL draft, Stabler was a four-time Pro-Bowler and led the Raiders to a win in Super Bowl XI.
Stabler amassed nearly 28,000 yards passing and threw 194 touchdown passes over a 15-year career.
According to Pro Football Reference, Stabler was a three-time finalist (1990, 1991 and 2003) for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he ultimately fell short of making it in.
8. Cornelius Bennett
After a college career that saw him earn All-American honors three times, Cornelius Bennett became a first-round selection in the 1987 NFL draft. He was selected by the Colts before being traded to the Bills.
What followed was nine years of excellence in Buffalo, with Bennett earning five trips to the Pro Bowl and being one of the cornerstones of the Bills’ teams that went to four straight Super Bowls.
Bennett played for three different teams over a 14-year career that saw him rack up 71.5 sacks and seven interceptions.
7. Joe Namath
Before he became a household name in New York as the leader of the Jets, Joe Namath helped Bear Bryant capture the second of his six national titles at Alabama.
Namath guided the Tide to a 29-4 record from 1962-64 before embarking on a 13-year career in the NFL—12 of which were spent with the Jets.
After guaranteeing a victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, Namath turned in an MVP performance in a 16-7 win that cemented his legacy.
Namath was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
6. Dwight Stephenson
Following a decorated college career in which he was named an All-American in his senior season, the Miami Dolphins selected Dwight Stephenson in the second round of the 1980 draft.
Although his career lasted just eight seasons, Stephenson is considered by some to be the greatest center in NFL history, according to Mark McCarter of AL.com.
Stephenson went on to become Dan Marino’s battery mate and earned five trips to the Pro Bowl while helping the Dolphins make two Super Bowl appearances.
His place in history as one of the best offensive linemen to ever play the game was cemented when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
5. Bart Starr
Despite what was described as a “disappointing four seasons,” at Alabama by Bob Carlton of AL.com, Starr would be selected in the 17th round of the 1956 draft by the Green Bay Packers.
As nondescript as his entry into pro football was, Starr would go on to a legendary career that places him among the most decorated quarterbacks in pro football history.
Starr played 16 years for the Packers and won five titles, including earning MVP honors in each of the first two Super Bowls.
Starr amassed career totals of 24,718 yards passing and 152 touchdowns en route to gaining entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
4. Derrick Thomas
After a dominant senior season in which he set the NCAA record for sacks in a single season with 27, Thomas embarked on an 11-year Hall of Fame career with the Kansas City Chiefs that was cut short due to his untimely death in 2000.
After the Chiefs selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft, Thomas redefined the modern-day pass-rusher in the NFL. His speed and freakish athleticism off the edge are traits seen in present-day defensive ends such as DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller.
Thomas piled up 126.5 sacks over the course of his career and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
3. Ozzie Newsome
Regardless of whether it was time playing at Alabama or in the NFL, or his time in the front office with the Baltimore Ravens, one common word defines Ozzie Newsome’s football career—excellence.
After piling up more than 2,000 yards receiving in his college career from 1974-77—an era when most teams still relied heavily on running the football—Newsome racked up 7,980 receiving yards and 47 touchdown receptions in a 13-year career with the Cleveland Browns.
One of the best tight ends to ever play the game, Newsome is one of the rare players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in both college and the NFL. He’s also won two Super Bowls as the general manager of the Ravens.
2. Don Hutson
During Paul “Bear” Bryant’s playing career at Alabama, he was a receiver in the shadow of one of the greatest pass-catchers to ever play the game—Don Hutson.
According to ESPN’s David Whitley, Bryant had some high praise for his former running mate.
"Don had the most fluid motion you had ever seen when he was running," Bryant said. "It looked like he was going just as fast as possible when all of a sudden he would put on an extra burst of speed and be gone."
After capturing a national title in his final college season in 1934, the “Alabama Antelope” went on to a storied pro career with the Green Bay Packers.
Widely considered a receiver who was ahead of his time, Hutson went on to become a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the 1963 class after an 11-year career that saw him earn four trips to the Pro Bowl and help the Packers win three titles in that span.
According to NFL.com, Hutson racked up nearly 8,000 yards receiving and caught 99 touchdowns in his career.
1. John Hannah
Arguably the greatest player to ever come out of Alabama, John Hannah followed up a stellar career at the Capstone by becoming a nine-time Pro Bowler for the New England Patriots.
In a list of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history compiled by Kofi Bofah of Yahoo! Sports, Hannah checked in at No. 2 only behind Anthony Munoz.
Hannah and Don Hutson were also the only two former Tide players selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Hannah was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.