This presentation chronicles five great football players for the Crimson Tide, but, odds are, today's average fan has not heard of these players.*
Some great Tide players had moments of brilliance, only to see that brilliance cut short due to injury. Some of them had stellar careers in the shadows of more brilliant players or players who received more attention than they.
And some great 'Bama players are simply forgotten.
So, enjoy getting to know five great 'Bama players most fans do not know, plus a bonus player who sometimes gets lost in Tide history.
*Unless you're a die-hard fan.
Fracchia made his mark on Tide history most memorably in the 1962 Sugar Bowl when he was named game MVP after rushing for 124 yards in 'Bama's 10-3 win over Arkansas.
Fracchia stood out on a National Championship team that boasted such Tide greats as Pat Trammell, linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, and two–way lineman Billy Neighbors.
A large (for that time) back that stood 6'1" and weighed 186 pounds, Fracchia came from Memphis to Tuscaloosa. When asked why he chose Alabama, Fracchia said, "I wanted to play on a good team and I knew Coach Bryant was going to turn one out."
Mike ended his career with a busted knee and never followed up on the success he'd had in the '61 season when he led the SEC in rushing—as a fullback. He was, however, a roommate of a cocky freshman quarterback, Joe Namath.
Today, Fracchia lives back in his hometown of Memphis.
The Van de Graaf brothers (four of them played at Alabama, and three of the four played varsity) were among the first stars of the Crimson Tide football tradition. The boys' father was on Yale University's first 11-man football team in the 1880s and brought that tradition to his sons.
The two older brothers, Adrian and Hargrove, started their careers in 1910, but it was younger brother William, who joined the team in 1912, who became the most celebrated Tide player of his day.
In a 1915 game against 'Bama's great rival of that time, Sewanee (see the lyrics to the Tide fight song—Sewanee was quite the powerhouse back then), William won the game for the Tide. His performance that season earned him a spot on the All-American football team, the first Tide player and the first southerner ever so named.
Coach Wallace Wade's 1925 squad secured a perfect 9-0 season with a stout defense that recorded several shut-outs. The team was led offensively by halfback Johnny Mack Brown, and the quarterback was one Allison T.S. "Pooley" Hubert.
That Tide team became the first Southern team invited to the Rose Bowl where they were to meet highly regarded Washington. Almost no one said the boys from 'Bama could win; even comedian Will Rogers referred to the team, according to once source, as "Tusca-losers."
Sure enough, the Huskies took an early two-touchdown lead behind the play of Washington great, HB George Wilson. Then Wilson got hurt and had to leave the game for a time.
Up stepped Hubert, and not the better-known Brown, and he brought the Tide back, running for one score and passing for another, as 'Bama scored all of its points in the third quarter. It was enough for the 20-19 upset .
Despite his leadership (and despite besting Brown in most statistical categories), Hubert lost out on the MVP award to Brown.
It was the Crimson Tide’s first national championship, and it put the program on the national map (in addition to a "signature" win earlier in the decade against traditional power Penn).
Crowds waited the conquering Tide at every train station in the south on the return to Tuscaloosa. According to one source, the Crimson Tide had "won the Rose Bowl for the whole South," and it was "Pooley" Hubert who led the way.
Hubert, who had entered the University after having served in World War I, later coached basketball at Southern Miss and at VMI. He passed away in 1978.
Most Alabama fans skip over the years between the mid-1940s and go to the Coach "Bear" Bryant years, but one of the many bright spots in those 15 or so years was the play of Ed Salem.
Salem led the Tide in almost every offensive category in the years he played. A two-way player, Salem was the Tide's leading passer in '48-50, the leading rusher in '48 and top scorer in '48 and '49.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that he led the team in interceptions in 1950, and was also the Tide's leading punt returner that year? Talk about a triple—make that quadruple—threat!
In the renewal of the Iron Bowl, it was Salem who led the Tide to a 55-0 drubbing of Auburn. In that 1948 game, Salem threw for three scores, rushed for another, and kicked seven extra points.
And he played safety the entire game.
After his college career, Salem played a year in the NFL and one in the CFL before retiring to the Birmingham area where he opened several fast-food drive-ins.
He passed away in 2001 and was inducted to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame this year.
David Smith? DAVID SMITH?!?
Yes. The University that produced scads of great quarterbacks also produced a quarterback that could have been great and, in fact, did show flashes of greatness at times.
David Smith, walk-on quarterback, 1984-1988.
Let's go at it this way: In the storied history of Alabama in bowl games, which quarterback holds the records for completions, attempts, and passing yardage?
And the staggering stats are these: 33 of 52 for 412 yards. When, you ask? 1988. Sun Bowl. Against Army. A 'Bama win, 29-28, by the way.
The Gadsden native was a southpaw, and he piloted the Tide to a 9-3 record in 1988. Those three losses were by a combined total of 14 points, too.
Besides being a lefty, Smith wore No. 13—he considered it lucky.
Derrick Thomas, Gene Jelks, Bobby Humphrey, Pierre Goode, Phillip Doyle, and Chris Mohr were all on that team, but it was Smith that made them go, leading the team to a No. 17 ranking that year despite missing three games with a bad knee.
Ask the average 'Bama fan who was the first black player at Alabama, and that fan might say "Wilbur Jackson."
That average fan would be wrong. John Mitchell was the first. The two-time All-SEC performer came to Tuscaloosa after two years at an Arizona JUCO program.
All Mitchell did at the Capstone was start as a lineman for two years straight and become the first black team captain in 1972 as well as an All-American. During his time with 'Bama, the team compiled a 21-3 record.
Mitchell was drafted by the 49ers, but returned to Alabama to become Coach Bryant's assistant and the first black assistant coach at the University.
Today, Coach Mitchell works as the defensive line coach as well as the assistant head coach of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.