This is a continuing series of University of Alabama football players, traditions, and more, letter-by-letter.
You may have thought that today's entry would focus on the most famous "B" in Alabama football history: Bear Bryant. Well, you're partially correct. Instead of Bryant, let's take a look at one of his former players who helped lead the Crimson Tide to a pair of national championships in the late 1970s: defensive end Byron Braggs.
A native of Montgomery, Ala., Braggs attended George Washington Carver High School. As a senior in 1977, he received the Jimmy Hitchcock Award, which is presented to a Montgomery County athlete who displays the most outstanding qualities of Christian leadership.
As a sophomore during the 1978 season, Braggs played for the second-ranked Alabama (10-1) against top-ranked Penn State (11-0) in the Sugar Bowl.
The game was scoreless through most of the first half, thanks to Braggs and the Crimson Tide defense. After a Penn State interception put the ball on the Alabama 37-yard line late in the first half, the Nittany Lions looked to get on the scoreboard first. On third down, Braggs sacked Penn State quarterback Chuck Fusina, taking the Nittany Lions out of field goal range. Penn State was forced to punt, and on the subsequent Alabama drive, the Crimson Tide scored the first points of the game. Quarterback Jeff Rutledge found wide receiver Bruce Bolton in the end zone for a touchdown with eight seconds remaining and a 7-0 halftime lead.
Most fans watching the game in New Orleans remember Barry Krauss's fourth down goal line stop of Penn State running back Mike Guman to preserve Alabama's 14-7 win and a share of the national championship. But Braggs second-quarter sack should not be overlooked. His sack ended a Penn State drive and a possible field goal or touchdown opportunity. Had the Nittany Lions scored first, the momentum and outcome of the game may have been different.
Braggs was also a member of a vaunted defense in 1979. The Crimson Tide pitched five shutouts and only allowed two teams, 18th-ranked Tennessee and 14th-ranked Auburn, to score in double figures. Playing in the Sugar Bowl for the second consecutive season, Braggs and the Alabama defense shut down sixth-ranked Arkansas, 24-9, for the Crimson Tide's sixth national championship and last under Bryant.
For his efforts, Braggs was a two-time All-American and All-Southeastern Conference selection in 1979 and 1980.
After graduating from Alabama, Green Bay selected Braggs in the fifth round of the 1981 NFL Draft. He played three years with the Packers and totaled 5.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. His last NFL season was in 1984 with Tampa Bay.
Braggs apparently enjoyed doing things in pairs at Alabama: two national championships, two All-American and two All-SEC selections. However, his one big defensive play help changed the momentum in the 1979 Sugar Bowl en route to a national championship.