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The 50 Greatest Players In Alabama Crimson Tide Football History

Michael PintoSenior Writer IDecember 6, 2010

The 50 Greatest Players In Alabama Crimson Tide Football History

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    Alabama football is one of the most storied programs in all of college sports. The team has consistently been one of the best in the nation and produced so many star players it's difficult to even count them.

    But like anything else, there are always a few that are a cut above the rest.

    Here are the top 50 players in Alabama football history. 

50. Greg McElroy, QB

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Fans often do not give McElroy the credit he deserves, instead thanking Mark Ingram, the offensive line and the defense for the school's 2009 national championship.

    But McElroy has been one of the most consistent passers in the country in his two years at the helm. Though not a star player in the traditional sense, there's a strong feeling there is no national championship without his guidance. Don't forget, when Ingram was struggling, it was McElroy who stepped up. 

49. Johnny Cain, FB

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    Cain was one of the star players of Alabama's 1930 national championship team, lining up at halfback and fullback and playing nearly every offensive snap throughout his entire career. An All-American during his senior season, Cain was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1973. 

48. Mike Pitts, DE

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    One of three Crimson Tide players to be All-Americans in 1982, Pitts went on to have a 12-year career in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. 

    The pass-rushing specialist made his living in the trenches throughout his time with Alabama and was a huge part of the team's success in the late 1970's and early 1980s. 

47. Dixie Howell, HB

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    Howell played college football at Alabama from 1932 to 1934 and was a consensus All-American seleciton his senior year playing primarily as the team's quarterback. 

    Howell has become somewhat of a forgotten man, though, as the 1934 undefeated team had a pair of legends on it in Don Hutson and Bear Bryant. It shouldn't be forgotten that Howell was the man throwing them the ball, or the fact that he's a College Football Hall of Famer. 

46. Don Whitmire, OT

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    One of 19 former Alabama players in the College Football Hall of Fame, Whitmire played for Alabama from 1941 to 1944 where he was an All-American and one of the important pieces that laid the brickwork for the program's later success. 

45. Vaughn Mancha, C

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    Mancha was a consensus All-American in 1945 and is considered to be one of the finest offensive lineman from the first half of the 20th century. 

    Named to the Sugar Bowl All-Decade team of the 1940's, Alabama recorded a 30-9-2 record throughout his career before Mancha went on to become the fifth overall selection of the 1948 NFL draft. 

44. Antoine Caldwell, OG

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    Caldwell found success at Alabama early and often. He was voted to the 2005 freshman All-American team by both Sporting News and Rivals.com, then went one to become a consensus first-team All-American as a senior in 2008.

43. Billy Neighbors, T

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    Neighbors was a member of Bear Bryant's first team back in 1958, and like many others on that roster, must be credited for laying the ground work that helped make the program what it is today. 

    Throughout his career at Alabama, Neighbors was a force along the offensive and defensive lines as a first-team All-American. The Crimson Tide would go 26-3-4 in his four years on the roster and win the 1961 national championship his senior year. 

42. E.J. Junior, DE

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    The longtime NFL veteran played 13 seasons in the pros, making it to the Pro Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals in 1984 and 1985. 

    The defensive end earned his way doing the dirty work, and his 1980 season with the Crimson Tide was one of the best by a defensive end in school history. He was a consummate headache for opposing coaches and was a unanamouis first-team All-American selection. 

41. Mike Johnson, OG

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    Johnson was one of the most versatile offensive linemen from Alabama's 2008 and 2009 teams, earning All-American honors both years. 

    One of the driving forces behind college football's most fearsome running game, Johnson was one of the heavy lifters that doesn't get the credit that more glamorous skill players like Mark Ingram do. 

40. Riley Smith, QB

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    Calling Riley Smith a quarterback is selling the College Football Hall of Famer short. He was the punter and kicker as well as the team's best blocker. 

    In 1935 he led Alabama to a Rose Bowl victory, was named an All-American and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy. He was the second player selected in the inaugural NFL draft. 

39. Don McNeal, CB

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    McNeal was an integral part of Alabama's championship runs in 1978 and 1979 and later would play his entire professional career with the Miami Dolphins and become best known for being on the wrong side of the Washington Redskins' "Greatest Moment of All Time" in Super Bowl XVII. 

    The captain of the Crimson Tide's 1979 national championship squad and an All-American, McNeal would later go on to be selected as a member of the Alabama All-Centennial Team in 1992. 

37. and 38. John Copeland and Eric Curry, DE

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    John Copeland and Eric Curry go hand in hand like few others do in Alabama football history. They were the All-American anchors of what's considered one of the best college defenses of all timme.

    Copeland and Curry set the ton week after week, playing critical roles in Alabama's 1992 national championship and upset over previously unbeaten Miami in the 1993 Sugar Bowl.

36. Jeremiah Castille, CB

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    Castille was a member of the last Alabama team coached by Bear Bryant, and in the Tide's last game with Bryant at the helm, would record three interceptions and be named the MVP of the 1982 Liberty Bowl after a 21-15 win over Illinois. 

    Castille was named al All-American that season, and his 16 career interceptions are an Alabama school record that's stood for nearly 30 years. 

35. Javier Arenas, CB

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    A semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2009, Arenas' All-American campaign was one of the many reasons the Crimson Tide rolled to a 14-0 season an a national championship.

    But the cornerback was more than just a playmaker on defense; he finished his career as one of the best punt returners in NCAA history. He holds the SEC record for most punt returns for touchdowns with seven, and his 1,725 career return yards are just 37 yards shy of Wes Welker's NCAA career record. 

34. DeMeco Ryans, LB

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    One in a long line of star linebackers at Alabama, Ryans first hit the college scene as a special-teamer fighting for playing time, but by 2005, he was named the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year as well as being a finalist for every major award for linebackers. 

33. Keith McCants, LB

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    McCants holds the unfortunate honor of being one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history. We rank in No. 30 in our list of the 50 biggest draft busts. The fact remains that he had a prolific career with Alabama and was a unanimous All-American selection before becoming the fourth overall pick of the 1990 draft.  

32. John Parker Wilson, QB

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Wilson isn't generally heralded as one of the best quarterbacks in Alabama history. In fact, most fans probably look back on his career with a bit of frustration. But it should be noted that he was a big part of the rebuilding process that got Alabama back into the championship picture. 

    After a 6-7 season in 2006 and a 7-6 season in 2007, Wilson led the Crimson Tide to a 12-2 mark in 2008. For a guy who holds every significant passing record in Alabama school history, more credit is due. 

31. Joe Kilgrow, HB

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    Kilgrow played every Alabama football game from 1935 through 1937, in most contests staying on the field for the full 60 minutes. 

    Kilgrow lined up all over the field, primarily at halfback, but also was the primary passer for the team as well as the punter and safety. During his career, Alabama had a 23-3-2 record, with Kilgrow earning All-American honors and coming fifth in the 1937 Heisman voting. 

30. Dennis Homan, WR

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    Homan was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 after a very productive college and professional football career. 

    A split end for the Crimson Tide, Homan was a member of the 1965 national championship squad and consensus All-American as a senior in 1968 after catching 54 passes for 820 yards and nine touchdowns. He holds the record for the most career receiving touchdowns in Alabama school history. 

29. Marty Lyons, DT

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    Marty Lyons is probably best known for the hit that ended Dwight Stevenson's career in 1987 when Stevenson was with the Miami Dolphins and Lyons was with the New York Jets; ironic considering they were teammates and friends together at Alabama. 

    Alabama went 31-5 durning Lyons' All-American career with the team, making a key contribution in the famous "Goal Line Stand" of the 1979 Sugar Bowl during Alabama's national championship season.

28. David Palmer, WR

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    Receivers have long had a hard time getting their fair due of credit at Alabama because of the team's run-heavy history. Believe it or not, Palmer was the school's first ever 1,000 yard receiver in 1993. 

    That season, he was a consensus All-American and finished third in the Heisman voting behind FSU's Charlie Ward and Tennessee's Heath Shuler. "The Deuce," as Palmer was known, was also one of college football's first "wildcat" quarterbacks; though it would be over a decade before the formation was popularized. 

27. Julio Jones, WR

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Julio Jones' career could have been so much more impressive had he not be hampered by injury, but a receiver of his talent level simply couldn't be left out. One of the most talented offensive weapons in the country, Jones is a lock to be one of the first couple  receivers taken in the 2011 NFL draft. 

    The highly recruited star made an instant impact, becoming the first true freshman to ever start on opening day for the Crimson Tide. For his career, Jones has 2,604 yards and 15 touchdowns. And even though Alabama lost the Iron Bowl this season, it will be long time before anyone forgets about his 199-yard performance in the contest. 

26. Jay Barker, QB

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    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    In Barker's three seasons as Alabama's starting quarterback, the Crimson Tide experienced one of the school's best runs of success since the end of the Bear Bryant Era. 

    Barker led Alabama to the 1992 national championship, a top 15 finish in 1993 (though eight wins were later forfeited due to NCAA violations), and then a top five finish in 1994. In that '94 season, Barker placed fifth in the Heisman voting and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. 

25. Shawn Alexander, RB

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Shaun Alexander is much more famous for his professional career with the Seattle Seahawks, but before he headed to the NFL he left Alabama as the school's all-time leading rusher. 

    As a freshman he ripped off 291 yards and four touchdowns against LSU, a school record that will probably never be broken. Add in an SEC Championship in 1999 as well as leading the comeback victory in the Iron Bowl that season and Alexander will always have his place in Alabama lore. 

24. Andre Smith, OT

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    The third All-American of Alabama's mammoth offensive line 2008, Smith won the Outland Trophy that year as the nation's top lineman. 

    This was becoming just the fourth lineman in history to start every game as a freshman back in 2006. He was widely to be the best run-blocking lineman in the nation when he left Alabama after his junior year and was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft. 

23. Johnny Mack Brown

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    Arguably better known for his career as a film star, Johnny Mack Brown played halfback for the Crimson Tide and was the Most Valuable Player in the team's 1926 Rose Bowl victory. Years later, the school would claim a piece of the 1925 national championship, though at the time, it was Dartmouth's alone. 

22. Terrence Cody, DT

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    "Mount" Cody, standing at 6'3" and upwards of 360 lbs., was a rare force in the trenches and a true nose tackle that just doesn't come around often.

    A consensus All-American in 2007 and 2008, Cody was the anchor for one of game's premier defenses. Georgia coach Mark Richt said he best in his description of the Alabama mammoth, "I haven't seen anybody who's a match for this guy one-on-one. Nobody playing on Saturdays, or Sundays probably."

21. Barry Krauss, LB

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    Krauss might have been highly recruited out of high school and had an All-American career at Alabama, but he makes this list regardless simply because of one play.

    Because when you make arguably the most famous tackle in college football history, there's no denying an eternal place in Alabama school history. In case you aren't familiar, Krauss made a goal-line stand against Penn State's Mike Guman late in the fourth quarter of the 1979 Sugar Bowl to help secure the national championship. 

20. Tommy Wilcox, S

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    Tommy Wilcox came to Alabama as a wishbone quarterback buried on the depth chart, but Bear Bryant saw something in the unheralded player that turned him into a star in the secondary. 

    Wilcox would earn All-American honors in 1981 and 1982, and his knack for big plays quickly turned him into a fan favorite. Perhaps his best collegiate moment came against Arkansas in the 1980 Sugar Bowl when Wilcox intercepted a pass that switched the momentum of the game and eventually led to Bryant's final championship. 

19. Pooley Hubert, QB

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    "Pooley" Hubert came to Alabama as a 20-year old freshman in 1922 and by his senior season had earned the nickname "Papa Pooley."

    Considered to be one of the best defensive backs of all time, Hubert was the difference-maker in Alabama's 1925 national championship after he played a superb all-around game on both sides of the field against Washington in Alabama's 20-19 win in the 1926 Rose Bowl. 

18. Rolando McClain, LB

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Another defender from the dominating 2009 national championship team, Rolando McClain left Alabama as one of the top linebackers in school history.

    In his three-year career, McClain regisered 274 tackles with 295 coming for a loss, eight sacks, and five interceptions. As a junior in 2009, he won the Dick Butkus Award and was a unanimous First-Team All-American. 

17. Pat Trammell, QB

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    Trammell was Bear Bryant's first star player. He would set multiple school records by the time he graduated, with his 0.875 winning percentage as the starting quarterback standing for 33 years until Jay Barker broke it in 1994. 

    Trammell would lead Alabama to a perfect 11-0 season in 1961 and win the school's first national championship in 16 years. He tragically died of cancer at age 28. 

16. Leroy Cook, DE

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    Leroy Cook's career at Alabama was one of the most successful in school history. An All-American in 1974 and 1975, Cook finished his career with 200 tackles with 27 for losses, 15 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and three blocked kicks. 

    In 1975, he was the defensive MVP of the Orange Bowl and was named the SEC Player of the Year. He would later be named to the Crimson Tide's 1970s All-Decade team and was also chosen to Sports Illustrated's All-Time Alabama team. 

15. Ken Stabler, QB

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    Though Stabler is best known for his years with the Oakland Raiders, leading Alabama to a 28-3-2 record as a starter and nearly bringing home a national championship. 

    In his first year as the starting quarterback in 1966, Stabler led Alabama to an 11-0 season, but the Tide finished third in the polls. While he didn't have as much success the following year, he did score the game-winning touchdown in the 1967 Iron Bowl after breaking free for a 53-yard scamper that's known simply as "The Run in the Mud."

14. Johnny Musso, HB

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    Musso, nicknamed "The Italian Stallion", was an All-American in 1970 and 1971 and was named the Player of the Year by Football News as a senior after finishing fourth place in the Heisman voting. 

    To this day, one of the favorite players in Alabama history. He led the SEC in rushing and scoring twice, and his 34 career rushing touchdowns remained a school record for 28 years. 

13. Dwight Stephenson, C

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    To sum up Stephenson's All-American career at Alabama, Bear Bryant called him the best player he ever coached, regardless of position. 

    Considering all the great players that took the field for Bryant, that is arguably the highest praise an Alabama football player could hope for. Stephenson went all to a Hall of Fame career with the Miami Dolphins and is considered one of the best centers of all time. 

12. Joe Namath, QB

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    Bear Bryant once called Joe Namath the greatest athlete he'd ever coached. In his three years as the team's quarterback, Namath led Alabama to a 29-4 record and the 1964 national championship.

    His statistics aren't overly impressive, with just 2,713 career passing yards injuries and suspensions limited him somewhat down the stretch. With Namath's freedom-loving attitude and Bryant's coaching iron fist, the two formed one of the most unique duos in college football history. 

11. Bobby Humphrey, RB

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    Bobby Humphrey probably should have gotten more credit for his college career than he did considering how successful he was with the Crimson Tide. He never finished higher than 10th in the Heisman voting though. 

    Humphrey set the then-school record for rushing yards in a season in 1986, finishing his college career with 3,420 yards and 40 touchdowns. An All-American in 1986 and 1987, Humphrey was voed as the UPI's Offensive Player of the Year in 1987.  

10. Chris Samuels, OT

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    Arguably the best offensive lineman in Alabama school history, Samuels started 42 straight games from 1996 to 1999 without yielding a single sack; that's nearly an entire college career. 

    In 1999, he was awarded the Outland Trophy after a unanimous All-American season in which he did not allow a quarterback pressure for the entire season playing in nearly every offensive snap in the regular season. If not for Samuels, Shaun Alexander's carer just wouldn't have been the same. 

9. Mark Ingram, RB

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Of all the players in Alabama, no one had ever won the Heisman Trophy for the Crimson Tide until Mark Ingram in 2009; he did so by the closest margin in the 75 year history of the award.  

    That year, Ingram became the second player since Matt Leinart in 2004 to win both the Heisman and the national championship in the same season. While he hasn't been nearly as impressive this season as he was a year ago, defenses have focued on him more than ever. 

8. Woodrow Lowe, LB

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    The three-time All-American in 1973, 1974 and 1975, Lowe is one of two players in Alabama school history to be named an All-American in three different years. 

    Lowe holds the Alabama record for most tackles in a season and is third on the school's all-time tackle list. He also was a member of four SEC championship teams and one national championship team. 

7. Harry Gilmer, QB/DB

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    Gilmer was the star of Alabama's 1946 Rose Bowl team, and while he's officially a halfback, he handled the majority of the team's passing duties and was a prolific kick returner as well. 

    He led the nation in touchdown passes in 1945 with 13 and his 1,457 total yards were second. That earned him the SEC Player of the Year Award as well as consensus All-American honors. HIs 52 touchdowns are second all-time in Alabama history; an amazing feat considering the era he played in. 

6. Don Hutson, WR

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    Huston was one of the greatest pass-catchers in football history, and many credit him as not just the first star receiver in the NFL, but the first modern receiver period. An All-American in 1934, Huston went off for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 1935 Rose Bowl to give coach Frank Thomas his first national championship. 

5. Derrick Thomas, LB

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    Derrick Thomas is simply an Alabama legend; it doesn't hurt that he's also one of the greatest NFL defenders of all time. 

    In his years with the Crimson TIde, Thomas just shattered the school's defensive record books. He won the Dick Butkus Award in 1988 after recording a staggering 27 sacks during one of the finest seasons in college football history. 

4. Ozzie Newsome, TE

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    One of the best tight ends in the history of the game, Ozzie Newsome was unstoppable throughout his college and professional career. Before he went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL though, he made his mark at Alabama. 

    Newsome had 2,070 receiving yards for his career, averaging 20.3 yards per catch; a Southeast Conference record. He was named the College Football Player of the Decade for the 1970's and was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994. 

3. Lee Roy Jordan, LB

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    Bear Bryant one said of Jordan, "He was one of the finest football players the world has ever seen. If runners stayed between the sidelines, he tackled them. HE never had a bad day, he was 100 percent every day in practice and in the games."

    Playing both linebacker and center, Jordan was critical in the team's 1961 championship season and finished his career as a unanimous All-American. 

2. Cornelius Bennett, LB

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    Along with Woodrow Lowe, Bennett is one of the two players in Alabama school history who have been named All-Americans three times.

    Considered one of the top college defenders of all time, in 1986, Bennett won the Lombardi Award, was the SEC Player of the Year, and finished seventh in the Heisman voting. In his four seasons, Bennett recorded 287 tackles, 21.5 sacks, and three fumble recoveries.

1. John Hannah, OG

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    Hannah is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, offensive linemen in the history of the game. He was a two-time All-American at Alabama in 1971 and 1972.

    He was named to the Alabama All-Century Team and inducted into the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fames. Bear Bryant called him the greatest lineman he ever coached.

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