Alabama Football: The 50 Greatest Players in Crimson Tide History

Dr. SEC@thedrsecAnalyst IIOctober 21, 2011

Alabama Football: The 50 Greatest Players in Crimson Tide History

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    When I started this list I thought it would be pretty simplistic. However, after many hours of research I now realize that this is one of the most difficult tasks that a person can do.

    While I believe there is an elite 15 in the Alabama football program, there are no less than 200 players who could make a case to be in the Top 50. 

    That is how solid the Crimson Tide have been over the history of their program. It is impossible not to leave someone out. However, I hope you enjoy the list.

No. 50: DJ Hall, WR (2004-2007)

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    Only three players in Crimson Tide history have had over 1,000 yards receiving in a single season. DJ Hall did it in two separate seasons. While some insiders have questioned his attitude during those seasons, none can question his production.

    Hall sits atop of the Alabama record book in career yards receiving (2923), and career receptions (194). Although those records did happen during a period many Alabama fans would like to forget, his accomplishments are worthy of mention.

    While it could be argued he did not reach his full potential, this two time All-SEC receiver was still pretty darn good. 

No. 49: Kermit Kendrick, DB (1985-1988)

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    The University of Alabama is synonymous with great defense. As a result, it is easy for elite players to get lost in the shuffle of the historical picture.  

    Kermit Kendrick is one of those players. Kendrick had modest numbers, but was an All-SEC performer in 1987 and an All-American selection in 1988.

    Kendrick did account for 14 interceptions in his career.

    However, it was never about stats with him. He was a lock-down corner, and one of the greatest proofs of this was that he was selected All-SEC in 1987 with one interception.

No. 48: Leigh Tiffin, K (2006-2009)

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    Leigh Tiffin was a 2009 All-American and Lou Groza Award finalist. He finished second in the SEC and NCAA in career field goals with 83. Tiffin  finished his career with a school-record 385 points.

    His senior season he connected on 30 of 35 field goals. 

No.47: Mike Pitts, DE (1979-1982)

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    Mike Pitts was a stand-up defensive end that was selected as an All-American in 1982. Pitts was a part of two SEC championship teams and the 1979 National Championship team.

    Pitts finished his career with 214 tackles and 16 sacks.

No. 46: Greg McElroy, QB (2006-2010)

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    Greg McElroy might go down as the most under-appreciated player in Tide history. 

    He was the perfect quarterback for a Nick Saban coached team. Many fans thought that he was limited in the throws he could make, however, it only took a few preseason games in the NFL to disprove that theory.

    McElroy did exactly what was asked of him and nothing more. He is one of the brightest players to ever don the crimson and white. 

    Last December he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a National Football Foundation scholar/athlete.

    During his career he completed 436 passes out of 658 attempts. That gave him a career completion of 65.8 percent. He also completed 39 touchdown passes and only gave away ten interceptions. While McElroy holds several individual Crimson Tide records, the most important accomplishment he has is his career record of 24-3.

No. 45: Siran Stacy, RB (1989-1991)

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    The Alabama native was not able to sign with the Tide after high school because of academic issues.

    However, after a successful two years at Coffeyville Community College (KS), Stacey was able to fulfill his dream of playing for the Crimson Tide in 1989.

    Stacy made the most of his opportunity by rushing for 1,079 yards in his first season for Alabama. He would total over 1400 total yards of offense and 18 touchdowns that season.  The Tide finished 10-2 on the year.

    Expectations were high going into the 1990 season for the Tide. However, Stacy would suffer a season-ending knee injury, and Alabama’s season suffered through a disastrous 7-6 under new head coach Gene Stallings.  

    Fortunately, Stacy was awarded a medical red-shirt.

    Stacy would return to his dominant form in 1991. Although his stats were not as impressive as 1989, he did finish the season with 1145 offensive yards and 10 touchdowns.

    The Tide would finish the season 11-1. 

No. 44: George Teague, Safety (1989-1992)

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    All great players have a signature game in their career.

    For George Teague it was the 1993 Sugar Bowl when Alabama faced Miami for the national championship. Teague would make his first memorable play of the game when he intercepted Gino Torretta and returned it 31 yards for the touchdown.

    Five plays later he would make one of the most memorable plays in college football history when he ran down Lamar Thomas and stripped the ball away. At the time, many believed Thomas was the fastest player in college football.

    Teague finished his career with 14 interceptions and twice led the Tide in passes broken up. 

No. 43: Jeremiah Castille, DB (1979-1982)

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    Jeremiah Castille's 16 career interceptions helped him become an All-American and to later be selected to the Alabama All-Century team and the 1980s team of the decade.

    Castille finished his career with 156 tackles and 30 passes broke up.

No. 42: Vaughn Mancha, Center (1944-1947)

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    In today’s game, if an athlete plays both offense and defense it is worthy of headlines. However, for Vaughn Mancha it was just another day at the office. Mancha was a star on both sides of the ball.

    In the 1945 Sugar Bowl, Mancha played all 60 minutes. This, in part, was one of the reasons that he was named to the Sugar Bowl all-decade team. Mancha was also an All-American center and was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

No. 41: Wilbur Jackson, RB (1971-1973)

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    Wilbur Jackson deserved to be on the list for two separate but equally important reasons.

    First off, he was the first African-American player ever offered a scholarship at the University of Alabama. He played with a great deal of pressure and did it in such a way that he opened the doors for future African-American players.

    Secondly, he did a great job on the football field. He was recruited as a wide receiver, but Alabama switched to the wishbone during his time. As a result, he was moved to running back where he excelled his senior season rushing 95 times for 752 yards.

    Those numbers are modest because of the amount of running backs they used in the wishbone. However, it was good enough for 7.9 yards per carry.

    His sacrifice and hard work helped Alabama win the national championship that season.

No. 40: Dennis Homan, SE (1965-1967)

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    Dennis Homan was the consensus All-America pick in 1967.

    \While his receiving yards numbers are not mind-blowing (1,495), he was one of the greatest red-zone threats in Alabama history.

    Homan currently holds the Tide record for touchdowns in a career at 18.

No. 39: John Cain, FB (1930-1932)

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    Nicknamed John “Hurri-" Cain, he certainly brought disaster to opposing teams. Cain was a three-time All-Southern selection and a two time All-American.

    Cain was the starting quarterback in his first season with the Tide. However, one game into his sophomore season he was moved to fullback.  While it would be there that he had his most success, it should be noted he was a punter as well.

    Once against Tennessee he punted the ball 19 times, but still maintained a 48-yard per punt average.

No. 38: Antoine Caldwell, C (2005-2008)

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    Antoine Caldwell made his presence at Alabama felt early and often. He was voted as a freshman All-American by several publications and ended his career as a consensus first team All-American.

    Caldwell was a model of consistency and strength. He was voted as the Mal Moore leadership award recipient and the most inspirational player by his teammates. 

No. 37: E.J. Junior, DE (1977-1980)

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    E.J. Junior was one of the most successful defensive players to ever wear the crimson and white. He was a two-time All-American, SEC Player of the Year and a three-time All-SEC selection.

    Junior also played for two national championship teams and finished his career with 190 tackles and 21 sacks.

    He forced 10 fumbles during his career.

No. 36: Keith McCants, LB (1998-1999(

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    Keith McCants was yet another Alabama great who packed in his whole resume in two seasons. McCants tallied 197 tackles.

    In 1989, he was an All-American and Dick Butkus award finalist. 

No. 35: Sylvester Croom, C (1972-1974)

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    Croom was only a two-year starter. However, he made the most of this short time. In his final season with the Tide he was an All-SEC, All-American, and Jacob Trophy award winner. 

    Despite all of his talent, it was his leadership that stood out. So much so, that today the Tide presents an award in his honor to the player with the greatest commitment to excellence. 

No. 34: Julio Jones, WR (2008-2010)

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    If this was a list of the Top 50 most popular players in Crimson Tide history, Julio would probably be a Top 20 selection. However, this is a list of the greatest players in Alabama history.

    Jones will go down as one of the best wide receivers in school history with 179 receptions for 2,653 yards. However, his SEC resume was not impressive enough to break the top half of this list.

    Julio’s freshman and junior seasons will go down as two of the best single seasons for a wide receiver in school history. What made Jones special was not his route-running and hands. Instead, it was his blocking and yards after catch.

    In his final season with the Crimson Tide, he became just the third player in Alabama history to finish with over 1,000 yards receiving. His junior year he had 1133 yards, which set a single-season record. 

No. 33: Riley Smith, QB (1933-1935)

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    The Alabama media guide lists Riley Smith as a quarterback.

    However, Mr. Everything might have been a better choice.  

    During his career at Alabama he punted, kicked field goals, played quarterback and fullback.

    The height of his individual success was in 1935 when he was selected as an All-American and also won the Jacobs trophy for being the nation’s best blocker. 

No. 32: DeMeco Ryans, LB (2002-2005)

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    DeMeco Ryans broke every stereotype made about college football players.

    Not only was he one of the most gifted linebackers to ever play for Alabama, he was also one of the smartest. He received his degree from Alabama in just seven semesters. 

    Ryans finished his career with 307 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He was a 2005 All-American as well as the 2005 SEC player of the year. 

No. 31: Antonio Langham, DB (1990-1993)

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    Antonio Langham will forever be remembered for two things at the University of Alabama.

    The first is his game-changing interceptions, and the second is the napkin he signed that would lead to Alabama forfeiting several games for the 2003 season.

    However, for Tide fans the good outweighs the bad.

    They remember his interception returned for a touchdown against Auburn in the 1992 Iron Bowl, and the following week against Florida in the SEC championship game.  The combination of those two plays was directly responsible for Alabama getting a shot at the national championship that season.

    Lang finished at Alabama as a career leader in interceptions with 19.

No. 30: Joe Kilgrow, QB (1935-1937)

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    Joe Kilgrow was one of the original triple-threat college football players. At any point he could run for a score, pass for a score or have a reception for a score.

    He also kicked extra points and played safety. 

    In 1937, he was selected as an All-American and finished fifth in the Heisman vote. Alabama was 23-3-2 during his playing career. 

No. 29: Marty Lyons, DT (1976-1978)

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    Marty Lyons was a two-time All-SEC selection and a 1978 All-American. While he played three seasons for the Tide, it was his senior season when he was the most productive. That year he had 119 tackles, 15 tackles for loss. 

    It was in his final game that he experienced his greatest moment.

    He was a major part of the 1979 Sugar Bowl goal line stand. He finished his career with 202 tackles and 23 tackles for loss.

No. 28: Barry Krauss, LB (1976-1978)

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    Despite only playing three seasons for the Crimson Tide, Barry Krauss was twice named the MVP of the Tide's bowl game. His most notable postseason bowl MVP was in the 1979 Sugar Bowl.

    It was in that game that he secured his place in Alabama history when he tackled Penn State’s Mike Guman on the goal line to preserve the Tide’s 14-7 victory and national championship. 

    Krauss finished his career with 247 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss. 

No. 27: Eric Curry, DE (1990-1992)

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    In 1992 Eric Curry finished tenth in the Heisman vote. However, after the Sugar Bowl, it became clear that he should have finished higher on the voting list. 

    Curry finished his career with 114 tackles and 22.5 quarterback sacks in just three seasons. The defensive line for the 1992 team will go down as one of the best in history.

No. 26: John Copeland, DE (1991-1992)

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    John Copeland did in two seasons what most can't do in four.

    He finished his career with 130 tackles and 17.5 sacks. Teamed with fellow All-American Eric Curray, the defensive line held opponents to an anemic 1.67 yards per carry.

    During his two seasons, the Tide compiled an astonishing record of 24-1, including an undefeated season and national championship in 1992. 

No. 25: Jay Barker, QB (1991-1994)

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    Other Alabama quarterbacks have put up better numbers, but none have won games like Jay Barker.

    His 34-2-1 record makes him the winningest QB in Tide history. He was also All-SEC, All-American, SEC player of the year and the Johnny Unitas Award winner. 

    He finished his career with 5689 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also finished fifth in the 1994 Heisman trophy presentation. 

No. 24: David Palmer, WR (1991-1993)

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    While Alabama has had many great players, few were as electric as David Palmer.

    Palmer had his best season in 1993 when he finished with exactly 1,000 yards receiving. Despite the great history of the Crimson Tide program, Palmer was the first receiver to go over the 1,000 yard mark. 

    Palmer was more than just a running back. He was running the Wildcat formation before Darren McFadden had even picked up his first football.

No. 23: Javier Arenas, DB (2006-2009)

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    Javier Arenas was never the biggest player on the field, but there were many times that he was the most productive. The first team All-American was a true game-changer for the Crimson Tide.

    One play he might sack the quarterback on a blitz from the corner, and the following he might line up at punt returner and switch the field.

    Arenas finished his career with 154 tackles and six interceptions. He is also the SEC’s all-time leading punt returner with 1,752 yards and seven touchdowns.

No. 22: Pooley Hubert, QB, (1922-1925)

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    Pooley Hubert was one of the cornerstones of what would become the Alabama dynasty.

    He became the second All-American in Tide history. He had a career record of 31-6-2, including an undefeated team in 1925. 

    It was Hubert who would lead Alabama to their first Rose Bowl game and the Tide to a 20-19 victory. Hubert threw for one touchdown and ran for another in the win.

No. 21: Andre Smith, OL (2005-2008)

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    Andre Smith is one of the most dominant run-blockers in Alabama history.

    He was an excellent pass-blocker as well. In his 38 starts, he only surrendered seven sacks. In 2007 he was All-SEC and won the Jacob Trophy.

    In 2008 he became the second player in Tide history to win the coveted Outland trophy as the nation's top interior lineman.  

No. 20: Terrence Cody, NT (2008-2009)

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    Terrence Cody's career numbers are modest. However, his effect on the game cannot be measured in numbers, even though his height and weight would be a good start. Cody, at 6'5" and 360 pounds, played on a regular basis.

    He was the space-eater Nick Saban covets in his three-four system. Mt. Cody demanded double and triple teams which freed up the linebackers and defensive backs to blitz.

    The two time All-American finished his two-year career with 52 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss. 

No. 19: Tommy Wilcox, S (1979-1982)

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    Tommy Wilcox help lead the Tide to a national championship in 1979 when he was named the SEC freshman of the year. He would continue his stellar play for the next three seasons—being named an All-American twice.

    He finished his career with 243 tackles and 25 plays broken up. Wilcox is recognized by many as one of top safeties in the history of the SEC.

No. 18: Rolando McClain, LB (2007-2009)

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    Rolando McClain finished his career in 2009 as one of the most decorated athletes in school history. In just three seasons, he registered 274 tackles, eight sacks and five interceptions.

    In McClain's final season, he won the Dick Butkus Award and was a unanimous First-Team All-American. The 2009 defense was one of the greatest in Alabama history and McClain was the leader.

No. 17: Leroy Cook, DE (1972-1975)

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    Leroy Cook finished his career as a two-time All-American. His best season was in 1975 when he was a unanimous selection and the MVP of the SEC. 

    Cook finished his storied career with 200 tackles with 27 for losses, 15 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and three blocked kicks.

No. 16: Ken Stabler, QB (1965-1967)

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    Ken "the Snake" Stabler was a threat to score anytime he had the football in his hands. Stabler finished his career with over 3,000 total yards and 25 touchdowns. 

    Though he would fill the stat-box in the NFL, it was his career record of 28-3-2 that stands out the most in retrospect. While his numbers were modest, his impact was always felt.

No. 15: Dwight Stephenson, C (1977-1979)

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    The University of Alabama has had multiple dominant centers throughout their history. Perhaps, more than any other football program in college football history.

    With that said, Dwight Stephenson stands alone as the Crimson Tides greatest center of all time. 

    Stephenson had been selected to the All-SEC team, All-American team and was the Jacobs trophy winner.

    His greatest awards might be when he was selected as the center on Alabama’s Team of the Century and was on the Team of the Decade for the 1970s.

No. 14: Bobby Humphrey, RB (1985-1988)

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    Bobby Humphrey was a two-time All-American, and had he not broken his foot his senior season, he likely would had been a three-time All-American. 

    Humphrey amassed over 3,900 offensive yards in his career and 40 touchdowns. Because of this, he was voted the Alabama player of the decade for the 1980s.

    He was also voted as the UPI's Offensive Player of the Year in 1987. 

No. 13: Joe Namath, QB (1962-1964)

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    Bear Bryant once said that Joe Namath was the greatest athlete he had ever coached.

    After watching Namath's career in the NFL it is hard to deny.

    The reason that Namath is not higher on the list is because this list is about what they did at Alabama and Alabama alone. 

    Unfortunately, for Namath, his senior season was cut short with a knee injury. 

    Namath only passed for 2,714 yards and 25 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Tide. However, he did lead Alabama to a 29-4 record and the 1964 national championship.

No. 12 :Mark Ingram, RB (2007-2009)

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    The fact that Mark Ingram is the only Heisman Trophy winner in Crimson Tide history places him on this list. However, the fact that he only had one good season keeps him from joining the elite.

    In 2009, Ingram was only eight yards short of 2,000 offensive yards and 20 total touchdowns. However, injury hampered his final season with the Tide and he rushed for less than 800 yards.

    Ingram finished his career with 2,774 total yards and 32 total touchdowns.

No. 11: Chris Samuel, OL (1996-1999)

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    On any other team in college football, Chris Samuel  would probably be the best lineman in school history. Samuel had 42 straight starts without giving up a sack.

    In fact, his senior season he did not even give up one quarterback pressure. 

    Samuel was a two-time All-SEC selection, All-American and an Outland Trophy award winner.

No. 10: Johnny Musso, RB (1969-1971)

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    Johnny Musso earned consecutive All-America honors in 1970 and 1971 and was a unanimous choice in 1971.

    He was also named the SEC player of the year after he rushed for over 1,000 yards for his second consecutive season.

    The Italian Stallion rushed for 34 touchdowns and had four more receiving for a total 38. Musso finished his career with over 3,300 offensive yards.

No. 09: Ozzie Newsome, TE (1974-1977)

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    Ozzie Newsome totaled 102 receptions for 2,070 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career. As a result, he was voted the 1970s player of the decade. 

    Not only is Newsome the top TE in Alabama history, he is one of the greatest TEs in SEC history.

No. 8: Shaun Alexander, RB (1996-1999)

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    Shaun Alexander had such a brilliant NFL career, that many outside of the Southeast forget how dominate he was at Alabama. Had it not been for a sprained ankle he might have won the Heisman his senior season. 

    Alexander finished his career as Alabama’s all-time leading rusher with 3,565 rushing yards and also added 41 touchdowns. In 1998 he was selected All-SEC, All-American, SEC player of the year and finished seventh in the Heisman vote. 

No. 07: Don Hutson, WR (1932-1934)

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    Dan Hutson is credited for being one of the first true wide receivers in college football history. This acheievement had him voted to the all-time college football team and to the Sports Illustrated’s Silver Anniversary Team in 1969.

    His signature game was in the 1935 Rose Bowl when he had six receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

No. 06: Woodrow Lowe, LB (1972-1975)

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    Woodrow Lowe had the best of both worlds while at Alabama. He enjoyed amazing team success when the Crimson Tide won four SEC championships during his tenure. They also won a national championship in 1973.

    On an individual level, Lowe was a three-time All-American and amassed 315 tackles, which is good enough for third all-time.

No. 5: Lee Roy Jordan, LB (1960-1062)

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    Lee Roy Jordan was a two-time All-American that was also voted the best Tide player of the 1960s. He was also voted to the ESPN all-time college football team in 1989. 

    Considered by many to be the top inside linebacker of all time, it is hard to argue when you read of his 1963 Orange Bowl performance of 31 tackles.

No. 4: Harry Gilmer, QB/DB, (1944-1947)

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    Harry Gilmer might be the only player in college football history to rank second all-time in interceptions and first in touchdowns. However, that is exactly what he did.

    Gilmer intercepted opposing quarterbacks 16 times. He also amassed 52 touchdowns. A perfect example of his all-around game is in 1946 when he led the team in passing, rushing, interceptions, punt returns and kickoff returns.

No. 3: Cornelius Bennett, LB (1983-1986)

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    Cornelius Bennett was more than just a three-time All-American.

    He was one of the the most dominant players in NCAA history.

    The 1986 Lombardi winner finished his career with 287 tackles, 15 sacks and six forced fumbles.

    Bennett was also named 1986 SEC player of the year and the 1980s Alabama player of the decade. 

No. 2: Derrick Thomas, LB, (1985-1988)

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    Derrick Thomas has been nicknamed "Sackman" for good reason: No one in Alabama history has ever done it better.

    Thomas sacked the opposing quarterback an astounding 45 times in his final two seasons.

    As a result, Thomas was awarded the Butkus Award, CBS’s Defensive Player ofthe Year award, Washington Pigskin Club’s Defensive Player of the Year and Alabama defensive player of the decade.

No. 1: John Hannah, OL (1970-1972)

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    Every other school in the SEC has a skills position player as their greatest player of all time. For example, the Tennessee Voulnteers have Peyton Manning. The Georgia Bulldogs have Hershel Walker. The Florida Gators have Tim Tebow.

    But not the Crimson Tide: They have John Hannah.

    Sports Illustrated once declared Hannah as the, "Best Offensive Lineman of All Time". This two-time All-American was voted to the all-time college football team by ESPN in 1989.