Alabama Football: The 50 Greatest Players in Crimson Tide History

Michael Mill@@MikeMill23Senior Analyst IIIApril 24, 2011

Alabama Football: The 50 Greatest Players in Crimson Tide History

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    Alabama is one of the most prestigious programs in college football history.

    The Crimson Tide have appeared on the final AP poll 47 times. They have won the SEC Championship 22 times and have 13 national championship victories.

    The program has been producing some of the most quality players in college football since 1892.

    Here are the 50 greatest Alabama players in school history.

50. Mike Pitts, DE

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    Mike Pitts was named an All-American in 1982.

    He was known for his pass rushing abilities with the Crimson Tide in the early 80s. In 1979 he played a key role in the team's national championship victory.

    Pitts was drafted as the 16th overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft and played for 11 years in the NFL.

49. Richard Todd, QB

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    Richard Todd wasn't the most noteworthy quarterback in terms of stats, but he did win a lot of games for Alabama.

    The three-year starter for Bear Bryant never lost an SEC game.

    In his final game for the Crimson Tide, Todd led the team to their first bowl game victory in eight years.

48. Antonio Langham, CB

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    Unfortunately, Antonio Langham will be remembered for what he did to damage Alabama rather than help it.

    The Crimson Tide had to forfeit most of the 1993 season due to Langham's secret signing of an agent before the season began.

    Langham was a ball hawk, earning him a spot as the ninth pick in the 1994 NFL draft.

47. Steadman Shealy, QB

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    Alabama won two national championships with Steadman Shealy on the team's roster.

    In 1978, he was the Crimson Tide's backup quarterback. In 1979, he took over as the starter for the team. They won the national championship both years.

46. Johnny Cain, FB

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    Johnny Cain was the starting running back and fullback for the 1930 national championship team.

    As a senior, he was named an All-American. In 1973, Cain was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

45. Dixie Howell, HB

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    Dixie Howell is often one of the forgotten stars of the 1934 national championship winning team.

    With future stars Don Hutson and Bear Bryant on the roster, Howell is often overlooked.

    Howell was a consensus All-American his senior year and was later elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

44. Wilbur Jackson, HB

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    Wilbur Jackson is often dubbed the "Jackie Robinson" of college football.

    He was the first African-American offered a scholarship at Alabama. His performance earned him the honor of being selected ninth overall in the 1974 NFL draft.

    In 2007, he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

43. Vaughn Mancha, C

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    Vaughn Mancha is one of the greatest offensive lineman in Alabama football history.

    He received All-SEC and All-American honors during his playing days with the Crimson Tide. Later, he was named to Alabama's All-Century team.

    In the 1948 NFL draft, he was selected fifth overall by the Boston Yanks.

42. Keith McCants, LB

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    The fact that Keith McCants is labeled as one of the biggest busts in NFL draft history almost sums up how fantastic his college career at Alabama was.

    In McCants' sophomore season, he and Derrick Thomas led one of the most ferocious linebacking corps in Alabama history.

    After being named as an All-American his junior season, McCants declared for the NFL draft. He was taken fourth overall by the Buccaneers and never lived up to the hype.

41. Javier Arenas, CB

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    Javier Arenas was a fantastic cornerback for the Crimson Tide during their 2009 undefeated season. He was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe award and a consensus All-American.

    What makes Arenas stand out, was his ability to return kicks.

    He is in the record books with seven career punt returns for touchdowns, an SEC best. He also had 1,725 return yards in his career, second to only Wes Welker in NCAA history.

40. Billy Neighbors, OT

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    Billy Neighbors helped lay the foundation for what Alabama football is today. In 1958, he was a member of Bear Bryant's first team.

    Neighbors was a force on the offensive and defensive lines.

    The All-American would help lead Alabama to a national championship in 1961.

39. E.J. Junior, LB

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    E.J. Junior was one of the many successful linebackers to come out of Alabama.

    Junior was known for his ability to rush the passer. It ultimately earned him a spot as a top pick in the 1981 NFL draft.

    Junior went on to have a very successful pro career, earning spots in the Pro Bowl twice.

38. Don Whitmire, OT

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    Don Whitmire was one of the first great offensive lineman for the Crimson Tide.

    He was recognized for his play in 1956, when he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

    Rather than continuing his career in the NFL, Whitmire joined the Navy once he was finished with his playing days in Alabama.

37. Riley Smith, QB

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    Riley Smith may have been labeled as a quarterback, but he was anything but a typical quarterback.

    Smith was also a punter and kicker. He earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the best blocker in the SEC.

    He was an old-school football player. That kind of play has earned him a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.

36. DeMeco Ryans, LB

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    DeMeco Ryans was the 2005 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

    Along with those honors he found himself among the finalists in almost every defensive award category that the NCAA has to offer.

    After only a few seasons in the NFL, Ryans has already been elected to the Pro Bowl twice.

35. Andre Smith, OT

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    Smith was an immediate talent on the team, starting as a freshman at left tackle. He is only one of four offensive lineman to ever start as a true freshman for the Crimson Tide.

    In 2008, Andre Smith won the Outland Trophy Award, which is given to the best offensive lineman in the country.

    That year, he allowed just one quarterback sack on 334 pass plays.

    Smith was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft.

34. Barry Krauss, LB

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    Barry Krauss is famous for the goal-line stand against Penn State in the 1979 national championship game.

    In the closing minutes Krauss made a stop on the goal line to secure an Alabama victory.

    He finished his career with All-American honors.

33. David Palmer, WR

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    As a wide receiver, it's not easy to make this list. Alabama is known for its tough defense and brutal running attack.

    It wasn't until 1993 that the team had its first 1,000 yard receiver. That guy was David Palmer.

    Palmer finished the season with All-American honors. He also finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

32. Eric Curry, DE

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    Defensive end Eric Curry was one of the two dominant defensive ends on the 1992 national championship team.

    He created havoc in the backfield, which led to Alabama having the top ranked defense in the country that season.

    He was drafted sixth overall in the 1993 NFL draft.

31. John Copeland, DE

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    John Copeland was drafted one pick ahead of Eric Curry in the 1993 NFL draft at fifth overall.

    Copeland lined up on the opposite side of the defensive line for the Crimson Tide in the 1992 championship season.

    Together, Copeland and Curry were considered one of the most dominant duos in Alabama football history.

30. Don McNeal, CB

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    Don McNeal played a key role on the defensive side of the ball for both the 1978 and 1979 national championship winning teams at Alabama.

    In 1979, McNeal was named the captain of the team.

    The All-American followed his two national championships with two Super Bowl appearances with the Dolphins in the NFL.

29. Jeremiah Castille, CB

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    It was during Bear Bryant's final game as a head coach that Jeremiah Castille recorded three interceptions in the 1982 Liberty Bowl.

    Castille held the school record with 16 career interceptions for nearly 30 years.

    He was named an All-American his final season.

28. Dennis Homan, WR

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    Homan was a member of the 1965 national championship team. He was an All-American his senior season.

    Homan holds the record for the most touchdowns receiving for a career in Alabama history.

    In 1999, he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

27. Marty Lyons, DT

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    It may be Barry Krauss who gets credit for the tackle, but it was Marty Lyons who got the push off the ball on the famous "Goal-Line Stand" play.

    A year prior, Lyons was elected as an All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. The Crimson Tide won the national championship that season.

    Lyons finished his career with 202 tackles, six fumbles forced and four recovered.

26. Joe Kilgrow, HB

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    Joe Kilgrow was a halfback for the Crimson Tide from 1935 to 1937.

    During that time, he rarely left the field. He played running back, quarterback, safety and punter.

    Alabama had a 23-3-2 record with Kilgrow on the team.

    He received All-American honors and finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 1937.

25. Johnny Mack Brown, HB

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    Before Johnny Mack Brown was an actor, he was an All-American running back for the Crimson Tide.

    In the 1926 Rose Bowl game, Brown led Alabama to a victory. He earned MVP honors in the game for his performance.

    He was also part of the 1925 team that shared the national championship with Dartmouth.

24. Jay Barker, QB

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    During Jay Barker's run with the Crimson Tide, the team found immediate success.

    During his first season the team won the 1992 national championship. They finished in the top 15 the following year (which was later taken away due to NCAA sanctions) and a top five finish in 1994.

    Barker won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and finished fifth in the Heisman voting in the 1994 season.

23. Terrence Cody, DT

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    Terrence Cody was an absolute force in the trenches for Alabama in 2008 and 2009.

    He could take over games from the nose tackle position.

    The All-American was the centerpiece for one of the most dominant defenses in college football.

22. Julio Jones, WR

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    Julio Jones may be one of the most gifted athletes that Alabama has ever seen.

    Due to his pure athleticism, Jones was a starter from Opening Day as a true freshman. He is the only player in the history of the program to receive the honor.

    Jones totaled 2,604 yards along with 15 touchdowns during his time with the team. The numbers would likely be more impressive if it weren't for injuries.

21. Tommy Wilcox, S

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    Originally, Wilcox came to Alabama as a quarterback. Bear Bryant recognized his unique talent and moved him to safety.

    Wilcox had the rare ability to make big plays.

    The ability led Alabama to win in the Sugar Bowl in 1980 and earned Wilcox All-American honors in 1981 and 1982.

20. Rolando McClain, LB

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    Rolando McClain was possibly the best defensive player on the 2010 national championship team.

    McClain registered 270 tackles and five interceptions during his three years with the Crimson Tide.

    He was the Dick Butkus and Jack Lambert Award winner in 2009. He also received All-American honors.

    He was drafted eighth overall by the Raiders in the 2010 NFL draft.

19. Pooley Hubert, QB

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    Pooley Hubert is often referred to as one of the greatest defensive backs of all time.

    He played a key role as a quarterback and fullback in Alabama's 1925 national championship victory over Washington.

    Hubert was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1964.

18. Leroy Cook, DE

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    Leroy Cook was a two time All-American defensive end in the mid 1970s.

    Sports Illustrated placed Cook on the All-Time Alabama Team.

    Cook finished his career with 200 tackles, 15 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and three blocked kicks.

17. Pat Trammell, QB

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    Pat Trammell was the first star player in the Bear Bryant era.

    He led the team to an undefeated season and national championship in 1961.

    At the age of 28, he tragically died from cancer.

16. Shaun Alexander, HB

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    Any player who can embarrass the rival Auburn Tigers deserves a place on this list.

    Alexander did just that in the 1999 Iron Bowl where he had three touchdowns and 199 total yards. This capped off a great career for Alabama.

    When he left, Alexander was the all-time rushing leader at the school.

    He also rushed for a school record 291 yards against LSU as a freshman.

15. Ken Stabler, QB

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    Ken Stabler 28-3-2 record as a starter with the Crimson Tide, and he may have brought home a national championship if it wasn't for the team getting snubbed in the polls.

    During his first season as a starter, Stabler led the team to an 11-0 record. They finished third in the polls.

14. Johnny Musso, HB

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    Johnny Musso, the Italian Stallion, was a two time All-American running back for the Tide in 1970 and 1971.

    His 34 career rushing touchdowns remained the Alabama school record for 28 seasons.

    He finished fourth in Heisman voting his senior season.

13. Dwight Stephenson, C

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    Simply put, Bear Bryant said that Dwight Stephenson was the greatest player he ever coached.

    I don't think there is any award that means more than those words from Bryant.

    Stephenson went on to become an NFL Hall of Famer and is considered one of the greatest centers of all time.

12. Joe Namath, QB

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    Bryant called Dwight Stephenson the best player he ever coached.

    He called Joe Namath, the best athlete he ever coached.

    Namath led the Crimson Tide to a 29-4 record over his three seasons as starter. In 1964, the team won the national championship.

11. Bobby Humphrey, HB

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    Humphrey never seemed to receive enough credit for his success at Alabama.

    He rushed for 3,420 yards in his career. He also caught 60 passes for 523 yards and scored 40 total touchdowns.

    In 1986, he rushed for 1,471 yards, which was a school record at the time..

10. Harry Gilmer, HB

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    Harry Gilmer was officially slated as a halfback, but he played quarterback as well.

    In 1945 he led the nation in touchdown passes at 13. He also finished second in passing yards 1,457.

    Those numbers may seem funny now, but those were great in the 1940s.

    He scored 52 touchdowns in his career, a number amazing for the era that he played.

9. Woodrow Lowe, LB

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    Only two players in the history of Alabama football have gained All-American honors in three different years.

    Woodrow Lowe was an All-American in 1973, 1974 and 1975.

    He holds the record for most tackles in a season and is third on the all-time tackle list.

    Being a member of four SEC championship teams and one national championship team is no small feat either.

8. Chris Samuels, OT

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    Chris Samuels is arguably the greatest lineman in Alabama history.

    From 1996 to 1999 he started 42 consecutive games. He did not allow a sack once.

    During his 1999 All-American season, Samuels was awarded the Outland Trophy for being the best lineman in the country.

    He did not allow a single "quarterback pressure" the entire season.

7. Lee Roy Jordan, LB

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    Lee Roy Jordan played both offense and defense on the 1961 national championship team.

    The team had six shutouts that year.

    Bear Bryant 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".

    Jordan was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

6. Mark Ingram, HB

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    Some may feel this ranking is a little too high for Mark Ingram, but he was able to do something no other player in Alabama history has been able to accomplish.

    In 2009, Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy.

    Ingram ran for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns last year.

    Although he struggled this season, he will go down in the record books as the only Heisman Trophy winner in Crimson Tide history.

5. Don Hutson, WR

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    Many consider Don Hutson the first true pass catching wide receiver in the history of football.

    In an era when throwing the ball was unheard of, Hutson caught six passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns in the 1935 Rose Bowl.

    He was not only the greatest receiver that Alabama has ever seen, but he also changed the game of football.

4. Cornelius Bennett, LB

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    The other player that received All-American honors three times in his career, was Cornelius Bennett.

    In four seasons, Bennett accumulated 287 tackles, 21.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries.

    In 2005, Bennett was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

3. Ozzie Newsome, TE

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    Ozzie Newsome was an unstoppable force in both college and professional football. He was one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game.

    Newsome had 2,070 receiving yards for his career, averaging 20.3 yards per catch.

    He has been named the College Football Player of the Decade for the 1970s.

    In 1994, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

2. John Hannah, OG

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    John Hannah was a two time All-American offensive lineman in 1971 and 1972.

    Bear Bryant has dubbed him as the greatest lineman he ever coached.

    In 1981, Sports Illustrated dubbed him as the greatest lineman in the history of the game.

    Now, 30 years later, Hannah may still be considered the greatest lineman in the history of football.

    Hannah is in the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1. Derrick Thomas, LB

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    Derrick Thomas is an Alabama football legend.

    He holds many Crimson Tide records, including an NCAA record of 27 sacks in a single season.

    In 1988 he was awarded the Dick Butkus award, after breaking the record for sacks in a season. He also finished his career with 52 sacks, which was also an NCAA record at the time.

    Thomas would go on to the NFL, where he would have a fantastic career that landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    In February of 2000, died from a blood clot. He was only 33 years old.

    He may have left at a young age, but he will forever be remembered by Alabama and football fans alike.