The Alabama Crimson Tide might as well be Running Back University. Long before legends like Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram etched their names in program lore, guys like Johnny Musso and Bobby Humphrey were doing the same.
Carrying the ball in Tuscaloosa isn’t something to be taken lightly, and when a player is deemed RB1 there, he’s got a pretty great chance of becoming a first-round draft pick and potentially winning the Heisman Trophy. It also helps to have five-star offensive linemen blocking for you.
From Nick Saban to Bear Bryant, Alabama coaches have had it made trusting some of the best running backs in college football history with the rock. Auburn may have Bo Jackson, Georgia may have Herschel Walker and Florida may have Emmitt Smith, but how many schools can say they had multiple Heisman Trophy winners who were also running backs?
We here at FanBuzz know Alabama is the king of running backs, but we wanted to find out who the very best were. We asked readers on Facebook and tallied up the comments and reactions to determine our list, and the results may or may not surprise you.
Alabama football has been loaded with talented rushers in the backfield throughout history, and these are the 15 best according to Alabama fans:
15 Best Running Backs in Alabama History, Ranked
15. Kenyan Drake
Even during Drake’s best season in 2013, he shared a running backs room with Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon. That’s just tough to get touches in. Still, he finished his four-year career with nearly 1,500 rushing yards and has had a pretty solid NFL career with teams like the Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders.
14. Major Ogilvie
Major Ogilvie may not have the best resume, but he has the best name on this list. He helped Bear Bryant and Co. win three SEC Championships from 1977-79 as well as two national championships in ’78 and ’79. Ogilvie also had an instrumental tackle before Alabama’s goal-line stand against Penn State in the 1979 Sugar Bowl.
13. David Palmer
David Palmer won a national championship at Alabama in 1992 and was an All-American halfback. “The Duece” once gashed Vanderbilt for 217 yards and placed third in the 1993 Heisman Trophy voting. He then became a second-round pick for the Minnesota Vikings.
12. Josh Jacobs
From homeless in middle school to a first-round pick, Jacobs is the embodiment of the Alabama standard. He played alongside backs like Damien Jacobs and Bo Scarbrough, but that didn’t stop him from showcasing his incredible athleticism. He’s now one of the best young running backs in the NFL with the Las Vegas Raiders.
11. Eddie Lacy
Eddie Lacy probably doesn’t get enough respect when it comes to former Alabama running backs. As a junior, he rushed for more than 1,300 yards and added another 189 receiving yards, scoring 19 total touchdowns. The three-time national champ (!!!) also gave fans this nasty spin move versus Notre Dame.
10. Kerry Goode
Kerry Goode played at Alabama during the ’80s, and his best season came as a freshman in 1983, when he totaled 736 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. His shining accomplishment was winning the SEC Freshman of the Year that same season.
9. Wilbur Jackson
Wilbur Jackson owns the very important distinction as the first black player ever offered a scholarship to the University of Alabama. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry in T-Town, which ain’t too shabby.
8. Tony Nathan
Tony Nathan actually had a movie made about him called “Woodlawn,” which told the story of how he was one of the first black football players at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama. From 1975-78, he rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns. He went to have a pretty decent NFL career with the Miami Dolphins.
7. Trent Richardson
Richardson’s NFL career may have been a bit of a bust, but his college career sure wasn’t. He damn near won the 2011 Heisman Trophy (if it weren’t for Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck) after rushing for 1,679 yards and scoring 24 touchdowns. Trent also won two national titles, but then again, who didn’t while playing at ‘Bama?
6. Bobby Humphrey
Fans that were around to watch Bobby Humphrey were lucky. He once ran for 284 yards against Mississippi State in 1986 and 220 yards against Penn State the following year. By the time he was finished steamrolling linebackers, Humphrey had more 100-yard rushing performances than anyone in Alabama history — no one had more than his 16.
5. Mark Ingram
What? A Heisman Trophy isn’t enough to put Mark Ingram higher? College football’s best player from the 2009 season rushed for 1,658 yards that season and played a key role in the team’s BCS National Championship win over Texas.
4. Najee Harris
To be honest, I’m shocked Najee is not in the top three here. He won two national championships and was a unanimous All-American in a pandemic-riddled 2020 season under Nick Saban. Thanks to coming back his senior season, he’s the program record holder for career rushing yards (3,843) and career rushing touchdowns (46).
3. Johnny Musso
“The Italian Stallion” punished opposing defenses under legendary Crimson Tide head coach Bear Bryant. In 1971, he was an All-American and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting after rushing for 1,088 yards. Musso was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame, further solidifying his legacy.
2. Shaun Alexander
No one has rushed for more yards in a single game wearing the Crimson and White than Shaun Alexander, when he torched LSU for 291 yards and four touchdowns in 1996. He finished his collegiate career with 3,565 rushing yards, which ranks third all-time. He wasn’t half bad in the NFL, either.
1. Derrick Henry
No surprise here. There’s a reason his nickname is King Henry. Derrick Henry stiff-armed and bullied defenders right into the record books in Tuscaloosa. By the time he left Alabama, he held school records for career rushing yards (3,591), single-season rushing yards (2,219) and single-season rushing touchdowns (28). Najee Harris may have bested the career mark from Henry, but Derrick can forever say he was the best in college football after winning the 2015 Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award and Walter Camp Awards.
Derrick Henry will always be a legend to Alabama fans, and I’m sure the Tennessee Titans are thrilled they took him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, because he’s the best back in football.
- Damien Harris
- Brian Robinson Jr.
- Siran Stacy
- Cotton Clark
- Shaud Williams
- Kenneth Darby
- Glen Coffee
- Sherman Williams
- T.J. Yeldon