The Alabama Crimson Tide have put together one of the most dominant football teams in history the last few seasons. Guided by head coach Nick Saban and led each season by historic players like quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, it got us thinking: what would the best team in Alabama football history look like?
The merits are simple: you had to have been an All-American selection wearing the crimson and white or owned a significant school record to be considered for a spot on the all-time team. With so many Crimson Tide greats along the way, we narrowed it down to the 24 best Crimson Tide players and assembled them into a team that could dominate in any era of the game. Good luck finding a weak link in this armor…
Quarterback: Joe Namath
There’s only one Broadway Joe, and only one man who would be the larger than life leader needed to handle all of these personalities. Namath’s college numbers — throwing 25 touchdowns against 19 interceptions — are nothing exciting, but his career 29-4 record, including the 1964 national championship, speaks for itself. If you want this team to win, you start it with a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback.
Running Backs: Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry
There have been so many backs to come through Alabama’s program through the years, but none were more dominant than this pair of Heisman Trophy winners. Both Henry (2015) and Ingram (2009) were consensus All-Americans. Combined, they share Alabama’s career record for rushing touchdowns as each found the end zone 42 times during their college careers. Give the ball to one, give it to the other, it doesn’t matter. There would be no slowing down this dynamic duo.
Fullback: Johnny Cain
Need a smart fullback who can do everything you need and then some? You go find three-time All-American John Lewis “Sugar” Cain for your team. Cain was a member of the undefeated 1930 national championship team and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1973. This team is built on grit and toughness. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another player like Johnny Cain on here.
Wide Receivers: Amari Cooper, Don Hutson
One of these players basically invented the wide receiver position, and the other owns every single-season and career-receiving record at Alabama. Together? Good luck stopping this pair. Cooper’s 228 catches for 3,463 receiving yards and 31 receiving touchdowns are all career records at Alabama that are far-and-away clear of the second-best performance (aside from Calvin Ridley’s 224 career catches). Hutson is widely credited for developing the basic concepts of the first pass routes. The 1934 All-American was an eight-time First-Team All-Pro in the NFL and is a member of both the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fames.
Tight End: Ozzie Newsome
The 1977 consensus All-American started for four years at the University of Alabama and still ranks fifth on the school’s career lists for receiving yards (2,070) and receiving touchdowns (16). Known as a complete player in ever aspect of the game, the two-time All-SEC performer went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, nabbing six All-Pro selections during his career. Whatever you need, The Wizard of Oz is going to deliver.
Center: Barrett Jones
The center position is the most critical among offensive linemen. You need versatility, intelligence, and a complete understanding of every position along the offensive line to be successful. Well, how about a two-time All-American at two different positions? Jones was named a consensus All-American in 2011 as an offensive tackle, then moved inside and became an All-American at center in 2012. Get yourself a Crimson Tide center like Jones to anchor this incredible offensive line.
Guards: John Hannah, Chance Warmack
Your official captain of this team is offensive guard John Hannah, who could really play any position and dominate. The two-time All-American became a 10-time All-Pro in the NFL, is a member of both Hall of Fames, and is considered one of the greatest offensive lineman to ever play the game. Opposite him is a 2012 consensus All-American in his own right, Chance Warmack. Warmack anchored three national championship teams at Alabama, and this pair together would really be a sight to see.
Tackles: Andre Smith, Chris Samuels
Pair two consensus All-Americans that played a decade apart, and you have the end pieces to an insanely talented offensive line. Samuels was awarded the Outland Trophy in 1999 as college football’s best interior lineman, just like Smith did a decade later in 2008. Both went on to professional football careers, and both are lockdown tackles to round out this all-time team’s offense.
Defensive Ends: Leroy Cook, Cornelius Bennett
Between these two sits five All-American selections — two for Cook and three for Bennett — and both were absolutely dominant forces for Alabama. Leroy Cook is the biggest “What If” story on this list after a knee injury during his final Iron Bowl led to an untimely end to his football career. For reference, Cook has career single-game highs of 22 tackles and four sacks. Bennett on the other hand, is a three-time All-American who dominated both in college and the pros. His 287 career tackles rank No. 8 all-time for Alabama, and he was named the SEC Player of the Year in 1986, an award almost exclusively won by offensive players at that time.
Defensive Tackles: Terrence Cody, Marty Lyons
Don’t run up the middle with these two present. Cody was named a consensus All-American twice as he was a complete refrigerator in the middle of Alabama’s 2010 national championship team. Marty Lyons’ 119 tackles in 1978 remain the sixth-most tackles in a season in Crimson Tide history. The College Football Hall of Famer went on to an 11-year NFL career playing for the New York Jets and was later inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.
Inside Linebackers: Lee Roy Jordan, C.J. Mosley
There are so many incredible linebackers that wore the crimson and white that’s it’s hard to choose a few, but this is a good place to start. Both Jordan (1962) and Mosley (2013) were named consensus All-Americans, although Mosley did notch a second All-American honor in 2012. Mosley’s 319 career tackles are the third-most in Alabama school history, and Jordan’s 31 tackles against Oklahoma in 1962 are the single most in a game in Crimson Tide history.
Outside Linebackers: E.J. Junior, Derrick Thomas
Whether this team played in the past, present or future, you might not find a better pass-rushing tandem than these two. Derrick Thomas holds every single sack record at the university, including 52.0 career sacks, which almost doubles the second-best mark. Junior was named All-SEC three times playing for Bear Bryant from 1977-1980. Both Thomas and Junior went on to NFL careers at top-five picks in their respective drafts.
Cornerbacks: Antonio Langham, Dee Milliner
What better pairing than two consensus All-Americans and the greatest ball hawk in Crimson Tide history? Langham’s 19 career interceptions are still the school record. His 1993 season was his best, but he caused the school to forfeit most of that season for signing an agent while still in school. On the other side, Milliner came to Alabama as the top cornerback prospect in the nation, and he proved why, helping the team win back-to-back national titles in 2012 and 2013.
Safeties: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mark Barron
Back-to-back All-American selections for Minkah Fitzpatrick are no surprise, just like his three interception game against Arkansas in 2016, which tied the school record. He’s taken his talents to the NFL and is already one of the league’s premier safeties after only a few games. Mark Barron is one of the most versatile defensive players to ever step foot in Tuscaloosa. The two-time All-American and three-time All-SEC performer is a homegrown Mobile, Alabama kid, who has become a dominant linebacker/safety combo in the NFL.
Think we missed somebody? Let us know who deserves a spot on this team!
This article was originally published October25, 2018.