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Alabama Crimson Tide Football: Catching Up with "The Deuce", David Palmer

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IApril 25, 2011

David Palmer teaching bunting skills to a team of future stars. (Photo by Birmingham New)
David Palmer teaching bunting skills to a team of future stars. (Photo by Birmingham New)

Larry Burton (Syndicated Writer) Tide fans today often wonder who the next Javier Arenas will be, but the younger generation may not know that Jaavy was simply the next David Palmer when it came to kick and punt returns and cranking up the excitement factor.

He came to Alabama over Florida because he really wanted to play two sports, baseball and football, but as a freshman, once he saw the impact he could have in football, he sadly gave up plans to play baseball to concentrate on football.

His high school coaches thought he could have gone pro in either sport, he was just that good an athlete.

When he came to Alabama, he was a short, somewhat skinny kid that didn't look much like a football player, much less a future football star.

The coaches knew they had something special in Palmer as soon as the let him start fielding punt returns in practice. The first team members found trying to tackle him was like catching a greased cheetah.

He wore number number two and was known as "The Deuce" and he was the Mr. Excitement of his day at Alabama. Every time an opposing team punted to him, opposing coaches held their breath until he was wrestled to the ground.

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He was a mere 5'9'' in cleats and maybe never got over 170 pounds wet, but as his coach, Gene Stallings once told us, "He is lightning a bottle and I'm glad I can turn him loose on Saturdays instead of having him turned loose on me."

And that began the nickname, "The Deuce on the Loose" and then just "The Deuce".

Before the "Wildcat" was common or even called the "Wildcat", Alabama called it "The Deuce." He was just ahead of his time.

He was a quarterback in high school, so it was nothing for him to line up under center at college and boy, before opposing defensive coaches ever became familiar with that, did it cause them nightmares in trying to scheme ways to stop it.

As a receiver, he was a danger to catch a three yard screen pass and take it 80 yards to the house just as much as he was to run by you, catch a bomb over the shoulder and then toss the ball to the official in the end zone.

As a receiver, he was the first to go over 1,000 yards, the first to get 61 catches in a season and he set the all time mark for receiving yards in a single game with 217 yards against Vanderbilt. He finished third in the Heisman and that was the highest finish for any Alabama player until Mark Ingram won it all two years ago.

Today's fans may have forgotten, and the younger one may not have ever known just what a game changer David Palmer was. In his day, he had some qualities of Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and Javier Arenas all in one body. 

When he left early for the NFL, he was the 40th overall pick as a junior and went in the second round to the Minnesota Vikings, where he played for seven years.

Though his pro career never had the excitement of his college days, he was a respected NFL player and a threat for many years as a kick and punt returner.

Once his time in the NFL was over, he came back to his boyhood town of Birmingham and went back to help boys improve their skills on the baseball diamond at Parker High School.

He works with the infielders, and that is something he should know about, since he played every position in the infield except for first base.

He's also helped with the football team and is just enjoying life and being a positive role model and mentor for youths.

When you talk to former players about Palmer, they don't talk about the stats, the big plays or the TD's, they talk about how he worked so hard every day to become better and how he pushed himself daily with a tireless work ethic.

That's the lesson he wants to get across to the kids at his school and to the ones he speaks to as a featured speaker.

"First of all, put God first. Stay in school," he said. "Do the right things."

"Don't disrespect your parents, your teachers, your coaches. And above all, work hard. No one can ever stop you from working to get better."

It's a lesson that means much to Palmer, who had a son arrested who could have been a player, with potential much like his father displayed. That tragedy drives Palmer to reach out and help other young men from having their life turned in such bad ways.

To David "Deuce" Palmer, he's had his day and lived his dream, now he just wants to help others have a chance to do the same thing.

He was a winner and today he still is.

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