The Alabama Crimson Tide have produced some of the greatest players of all time in college football history.
The men on this list include All-Americans, All-SEC players, Heisman winners, and, of course, national champions. They all played for not only some of the greatest coaches in Alabama football history but also college football history. Many of them would go on to have successful careers in the NFL as well.
Let’s take a look at the greatest to ever play football at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The impact they had on college football and beyond continues today and into the future.
10. Don Hutson (wide receiver)
Unless you are a true historian of Alabama football, you may not know who Don Hutson is. Hutson played football back with Bear Bryant in the 1930s under head coach Frank Thomas. He is one of the Crimson Tide’s first All-Americans and he went on to have a terrific NFL career with the Green Bay Packers. He was the NFL’s all-time leading wide receiver until a guy named Jerry Rice came along. Hutson was among the legends that started the Alabama football tradition that exists today. Those late 1920s and early 1930s teams put Alabama on the map. Back in the day, most of your so-called great teams were from the North, but Alabama changed that when they went to the West Coast and defeated Washington in the Rose Bowl.
9. John Hannah (offensive tackle)
When you talk about the great offensive lineman of Alabama history, the discussion begins and ends with John Hannah. Hannah played under Bear Bryant in the 1970s and was an All-American in 1971 and 1972. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999 and went on to have a brilliant career with the New England Patriots. Bryant said Hannah was the greatest lineman he had ever coached. Dwight Stephenson, who was another great offensive lineman during the Bryant era, continued that tradition of great Alabama offensive linemen when he decided to attend college in Tuscaloosa.
8. Ozzie Newsome (tight end)
This list would be complete without a mention of The Wizard of Oz. Newsome was a two-time All-American and a national championship on an Alabama Crimson Tide team that wasn’t known for its passing. In fact, Bryant was running the wishbone during Newsome’s college career. That didn’t stop Newsome from amassing over 2,000 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns in his college career. Bryant, who played with Don Hutson, said that Newsome was the greatest end in school history. He went on to have a stellar career as an NFL player with the Cleveland Browns and as an executive with the Baltimore Ravens. In 1994, Newsome was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame
7. David Palmer (wide receiver, running back, punt returner)
Better known as “The Deuce,” David Palmer was one of the most exciting players in Alabama football history. He was dangerous every time he touched the ball and always a threat to score. A quarterback coming out of high school, Palmer switched to wide receiver where he would scare the heck out of defensive coordinators around the country. When people talk about the most exciting player to ever play in Tuscaloosa, his name usually comes up first. Palmer was an All-American back in 1993 and won a national championship under Gene Stallings in 1992. During the 1993 season, Palmer would amass over 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, finishing third in the Heisman vote.
6. Mark Ingram (running back)
A No. 6 ranking for the first Alabama player to ever win the Heisman Trophy might seem low, and that’s fair. Despite Alabama’s illustrious history, there had never been a Heisman winner until 2009 when Ingram was the first to receive the honor. In that Heisman season, Ingram rushed for over 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns, leading the Tide to its first national championship since 1992. Though some have since questioned if he deserved the honor, he went on to have a long NFL career, mostly with the New Orleans Saints, and recently became a college football analyst with Fox Sports.
5. Derrick Thomas (linebacker)
If you ask Alabama fans who the greatest defensive player of all time is, they will probably say Derrick Thomas, and with good reason. Thomas was not only an All-American, but he smashed many Crimson Tide defensive records that he still holds to this day. How good was Thomas? He had 27 sacks in one season. You read that correctly, 27. The closest to his record is Will Anderson who had 17.5 sacks in 2021. Thomas is the gold standard of what every Alabama defensive player strives to be. His leadership on and off the field will never be forgotten.
4. Joe Namath (quarterback)
Probably the most famous Alabama football alum, Joe “Willie” Namath put Alabama football on the map back in the 1960s. And while he doesn’t own any of the school’s passing records, he was a force to be reckoned with. He was deadly with not only his arm but also his legs. The legend of Namath started back when he was supposed to attend Maryland but couldn’t get in. He was introduced to Bear Bryant, who made him Alabama’s starting quarterback. The tradition of great Alabama QBs can be traced back to the legend of Namath and Bart Starr. The tradition of wearing No. 12 began with him as well. After starring at Alabama, Namath went on to win Super Bowl III with the New York Jets, cementing his legacy.
3. DeVonta Smith (wide receiver)
You knew DeVonta Smith was going to be special when he caught the game-winning touchdown pass as a freshman in the 2018 National Championship Game against Georgia. From that point on, Smitty, as he is known, went on to break most of Alabama’s receiving records. He also became an All-American and a Heisman Trophy winner, thanks to garnering over 1,800 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns, which was unheard of at the time. If you look at Smith, you’d never have thought this little guy would have such a huge impact. He was on the same team with Jaylen Waddle, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs, but it was Smith who became the breakout threat. And anytime you’d doubled one of the other wideouts, Smith would be wide open. SEC defenses still have nightmares trying to defend him.
2. Derrick Henry (running back)
Alabama’s second Heisman Trophy winner was Derrick Henry. Henry, like Mark Ingram before him, was an All-American and a dominant force on the field. What made him so good was his deceptive speed. Henry was a 250-pound running back who could run over you, run past you, or do both at the same time. While many coaches wanted Henry to play defense, Alabama head coach Nick Saban saw the offensive potential in him. He left as the Tide’s all-time leading rusher, running for over 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns in his Heisman-winning season. He also won a national championship and broke Tim Tebow’s conference touchdown record. Henry’s name is right up there with some of the greatest SEC running backs of all time.
1. Bryce Young (quarterback)
There can be plenty of debate about whether or not Bryce Young deserves this honor, but we’ll make the case. He was the first Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy, an All-American and All-SEC quarterback, the last quarterback to defeat the Georgia Bulldogs, and Nick Saban’s first No. 1 overall NFL draft pick as head coach. While he never won a national championship as a starter for the Tide, he did lead them to an SEC Championship and to the title game. Not to mention he is a prolific passer who threw for over 4,800 yards and 47 touchdowns during his Heisman year, making him one of the most dangerous players in college football history. Young’s epic comeback win against Auburn during his sophomore season made him a legend in Alabama football folklore, solidifying his place as one of the favorite Alabama players of all time. His potential NFL success could strengthen his legacy even more.