Just like a catcher in baseball and a point guard in basketball, the quarterback is the head coach on the field. Alabama has produced several great quarterbacks who have led the Crimson Tide to greatness.
While players such as Joe Namath and Greg McElroy are remembered for leading Alabama to national championships, there have been other signal-callers who continued the rich tradition of Crimson Tide quarterbacks. Some of these quarterbacks etched their name in the Alabama record book while others led the Crimson Tide to memorable victories.
Scott Hunter was quarterback at Alabama from 1968 to 1970 and etched his named in several school record categories.
Hunter was involved in one of the most memorable games in Alabama history. In the 33-32 win over Mississippi on Oct. 4, 1969, Hunter finished 22-of-29 for 300 yards and a touchdown. His 75.9 percent completion percentage was a single-game school record (minimum 20 completions) until 1994. Hunter also added a rushing touchdown as the Crimson Tide overcame 539 yards of total offense and five touchdowns (2 passing, 3 rushing) from Rebels quarterback Archie Manning.
Later in the 1969 season, Hunter set the single-game school record for quarterbacks with 457 yards of offense in a 49-26 loss to Auburn on Nov. 29. Hunter finished with 484 passing yards and -27 rushing yards. His record still stands today, and it is the only time in school history that an Alabama quarterback has amassed more than 400 yards of offense in a game. Hunter's 55 pass attempts against Auburn are still a school record, and his 30 completions stood as a school record until 1989.
Among his other achievements, Hunter previously held career school records with 170.9 yards per game and a 56.8 percent completion percentage. Unfortunately, Hunter also holds dubious school records with 32 career interceptions and five interceptions in a game on Oct. 17, 1970, at Tennessee.
After leaving Tuscaloosa, Hunter played nine years in the NFL with Green Bay, Buffalo, Atlanta and Detroit. He appeared in 64 games with 4,756 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Bear Bryant installed the wishbone offense in 1971. The first quarterback to engineer his new offense was Terry Davis.
Because of the style of the wishbone offense, Davis' 1,229 passing yards and 14 touchdowns from 1971 to 1972 may not be impressive. However, he used his strength as a running quarterback to his advantage. In 1971, Davis rushed for 448 yards and six touchdowns. He only rushed for 281 yards as a senior, but tallied nine touchdowns.
Davis is often remembered for participating in two memorable Crimson Tide victories of the early 1970s. In the first game using the wishbone offense on Sept. 10, 1971, 19th-ranked Alabama surprised No. 5 USC, 17-10.
One of Davis' most memorable plays occurred on Oct. 21, 1972. Tied at 10 late in the game, future Alabama head coach Mike DuBose stripped the ball from Volunteers quarterback Condredge Holloway to give the ball back to the Crimson Tide.
With the ball at the Tennessee 22-yard line, Davis scampered to the right, hurdled a teammate at the 10-yard line, and crossed the goal line for the game-winning score in a 17-10 victory. The win was the first of an eventual 11-game winning streak against Tennessee
For his accomplishments, Davis was named the 1972 SEC Most Valuable Player and earned All-SEC honors. Davis also finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting behind winner Johnny Rogers of Nebraska.
During his two-year stint as Alabama quarterback from 1971-1972, Davis posted a 21-3 record for an .875 winning percentage. His mark is still tied for the fourth-highest winning percentage by a Crimson Tide quarterback in school history.
As the 1980s dawned on the University of Alabama, Walter Lewis played as a Crimson Tide quarterback from 1980 to 1983.
Lewis shared quarterback duties with two others as a sophomore in 1981. He tossed the eventual game-winning touchdown to Jesse Bendross against Auburn to help Bear Bryant earn his record-setting 315th career coaching victory.
As a junior in Bryant's final season in 1982, Lewis passed for 1,515 yards and nine touchdowns. His 62.2 percent completion percentage (minimum 100 completions) that season remains a single-season school record.
Under first-year head coach Ray Perkins in 1983, Lewis passed for 1,991 yards and 14 touchdowns to earn All-Southeastern Conference honors. However, he also tied a single-season school record with 15 interceptions.
In the 1983 Sun Bowl against fifth-ranked SMU, Lewis passed for 148 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown as Alabama pulled off the 28-7 upset victory. For his efforts, Lewis was named the game's MVP.
When his Alabama career was complete, Lewis left Tuscaloosa as the all-time leader with 5,690 total yards (4,257 passing, 1,433 rushing). This record stood until 2001. However, Lewis remains the only Crimson Tide quarterback to pass for over 4,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards in a career. He totaled 29 career passing and 13 career rushing touchdowns.
Lewis was selected by New England in the third round of the 1984 NFL Draft. However, he opted to play for the Memphis Showboats of the USFL. Lewis totaled 3,455 passing yards and 31 touchdowns in two seasons with Memphis.
David Smith only appeared in a combined nine games as a sophomore and junior. Despite battling injuries in 1988, he persevered and concluded his Alabama career in memorable fashion.
Alabama was 8-3 as it prepared for a Christmas Eve showdown against Army in the 1988 Sun Bowl. With the Black Knights leading 14-6 late in the first half, Alabama's Derrick Thomas blocked an Army field goal attempt. Smith returned to the field and led the Crimson Tide on a 76-yard touchdown drive, capped by an eight-yard touchdown reception by Marco Battle.
Alabama found itself trailing again, 28-23, late in the game. However, Smith directed the game-winning, five-play, 54-yard drive as the Crimson Tide earned a 29-28 win.
Smith earned game MVP honors by finishing 33-of-52 for 412 yards and two touchdowns. His pass completions, attempts and yards all set Alabama bowl game records. Smith broke Steve Sloan's team record for passing yards in a bowl game (296 yards, 1966 Orange Bowl) in the third quarter.
Even though Smith missed three games in 1988, he still finished with 1,592 passing yards and seven touchdowns. His 60.5 completion percentage that year is still the fifth-highest single-season percentage in school history for a minimum of 100 completions. In addition, Smith's 59.6 career completion percentage is second only to Sloan for a minimum of 100 completions.
In 1988, Smith was honored as the Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club's Outstanding Back. That same year, he was also the inaugural winner of the Pat Trammell Award. The award is presented each year to an Alabama football player who demonstrates the merit, leadership and high standards set forth by the former Crimson Tide quarterback.