Alabama Crimson Tide: Learn the Tide's ABC's Starting with "N"
Alabama, it seems, has never struggled to find quality running backs. The 2000's—Mark Ingram, the 1990s—Shaun Alexander, the 1980's—Bobby Humphrey.
The 1970's featured several talented running backs, and one of them was Tony Nathan.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Nathan played football, basketball, baseball and ran track in high school.
After earning All-State and All-America honors in football in 1973 and 1974, Nathan was offered a scholarship to continue his gridiron career at the University of Alabama.
As a freshman in 1975, Nathan rushed 20 times for 105 yards and scored his first collegiate touchdown with a two-yard run in a 52-0 win over Washington.
Nathan began to showcase his skills as a sophomore in 1976. Early in the season, he rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns in a win over SMU.
Nathan later added a touchdown in three straight games against Tennessee, Louisville, and Mississippi State (all victories).
His best game of the season was 141 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 38-7 Iron Bowl win over Auburn.
With an 8-3 record, Alabama was invited to the Liberty Bowl against UCLA. Nathan showcased his throwing arm by tossing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jack O'Rear on a trick play in a 36-6 win over the Bruins. He finished the season with 480 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Nathan's best season was his junior campaign in 1977. Earning the nickname "Touchdown," he started the season with a pair of touchdowns versus Mississippi and Nebraska.
Playing against No. 1 USC in Los Angeles on Oct. 8, Nathan tallied two second-half rushing touchdowns in the 21-20 Crimson Tide upset.
Some of Nathan's other highlights included a season-long 71-yard touchdown run against Louisville, and a 59-yard touchdown scamper versus Mississippi State.
In a 24-3 win over LSU, Nathan tallied a pair of one-yard touchdown runs and also tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Keith Pugh. He finished the regular season with two touchdowns apiece against both Miami and Auburn.
Nathan completed Alabama's 11-1 season by scoring the first touchdown in a convincing 35-6 win over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. He totaled 642 rushing yards with 15 touchdowns for the season.
The 15 rushing touchdowns tied a single-season school record set by Cotton Clark in 1962. It was tied by Bobby Humphrey in 1986.
As a senior captain in 1978, Nathan posted his highest single-season rushing total with 770 yards and six touchdowns. In a 51-28 win over Vanderbilt, Nathan rushed for 163 yards on only seven carries and a touchdown.
His 23.3 yard per rush average is still the fourth-highest single-game rushing average in school history.
Later in the season against Mississippi State, Nathan rushed for 145 yards, including a career-long 82-yard touchdown run.
With a 10-1 record, No. 2 Alabama faced top-ranked Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. While the game is remembered for the Crimson Tide's memorable goal line stand, Nathan was a big contributor on offense.
Late in the first half, he reeled off runs of 30 and seven yards to set up an Alabama touchdown with eight seconds remaining. The Crimson Tide took a 7-0 lead into halftime en route to a 14-7 win and a National Championship.
Nathan finished with a game-high 127 rushing yards, which was more than twice Penn State's rushing yards per game average during the season.
Nathan totaled 1,997 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns (29 rushing, 2 receiving and 2 passing).
His 29 career rushing touchdowns is still fifth all-time in school history. In addition, Nathan is second all-time with a 6.44 yards per rush average.
On special teams, he is third all-time with 10.6 yards per punt return for his career (46 returns, 489 yards).
After graduating from Alabama, Nathan was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the third round of the 1979 NFL Draft.
He played his entire nine-year career with the Dolphins, compiling 3,543 rushing yards, 3,592 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns.
Nathan also helped lead Miami to a pair of Super Bowl appearances.
After retiring from the NFL, Nathan served as a running backs coach for Miami and Tampa Bay. After a three year stint as running backs coach for Florida International University, he returned to the NFL as an assistant coach for Baltimore and San Francisco.
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