This is a continuing series of University of Alabama football players, coaches, traditions, and more on a letter-by-letter basis.
The 2002 to 2006 seasons were a roller coaster era for Alabama football. There were the highs of two 10-win seasons and a Cotton Bowl victory. The lows included probation, the Mike Price scandal, and two losing seasons.
But one of the highlights during this era in Crimson Tide football was running back Kenneth Darby.
A native of Huntsville, Ala., Darby rushed for over 4,600 yards in high school and was regarded as the top running backs in the state during his senior season. After being red shirted as a freshman in 2002, he saw limited action in his first season in 2003.
Darby got his opportunity to show off his skills in 2004. Shaud Williams, who had rushed for over 1,300 yards the previous season, had graduated. In addition, running back Ray Hudson suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year.
Darby responded by rushing for 1,062 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore. He proved his worth early with 11 carries on 111 yards and a touchdown in the season-opener against Utah State. Later in the season, Darby earned Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honors after rushing for a career-high 200 yards and a touchdown in a win over Mississippi State. He followed that performance with 109 yards and a touchdown against Louisiana State. Darby helped lead Alabama to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, however, he suffered a pelvic injury in the first quarter and missed most of the game, a 20-16 loss to Minnesota.
For his efforts during the 2004 season, Darby was named to the All-SEC Second Team. He also became just the 11th running back in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.
Darby continued his ascent as one of the best running backs in Alabama history with an impressive 2005 campaign. He rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown early in the season against South Carolina to earn SEC Player of the Week accolades. He then recorded 100-yard games against five of the next seven opponents, including 147 yards against Utah State and 122 yards versus Mississippi State. After helping lead Alabama to a 9-2 regular season record, he rushed for 81 yards on 29 carries in the Crimson Tide's 13-10 win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. After totaling 1,242 yards, he earned All-SEC First Team recognition.
Darby entered the 2006 season needing just over 1,000 yards to become Alabama's all-time leading rusher. Unfortunately, he was unable to emulate his success from the previous two seasons. Darby finished with 835 yards on the ground and no rushing touchdowns. He only recorded two 100-yard rushing games against Duke (115 yards) and Mississippi (162 yards). In his final game in an Alabama jersey, Darby was limited to 15 rushing yards in a 34-31 loss to Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl.
Darby graduated from Alabama with 3,324 career rushing yards, he third-highest total in school history. He joined Shaun Alexander and Bobby Humphrey as the only Alabama players to rush for more than 3,000 career yards. In addition, his 3,664 all-purpose yards ranked fifth all-time in Crimson Tide history.
Darby was selected by Tampa Bay in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft. After being waived by the Buccaneers prior to the start of the 2008 season, he was signed to the Atlanta Falcons practice squad. In October 2008, the St. Louis Rams signed Darby to their active roster.
Consistency was sometimes a problem for Alabama in the early to mid 2000s. But Kenneth Darby tended to be near the top despite some of the Crimson Tide's inconsistencies.
*All of Alabama's wins during the 2005 and 2006 season were vacated due to NCAA violations that occurred during that time.*