Top 10 Best Alabama College Football Players of All Time

Top 10 Best Alabama College Football Players of All Time

The University of Alabama has one of the most successful college football teams in the country. Alabama has produced countless superstar players throughout the program’s storied history. Listed below are the top ten best Alabama college football players of all time.

Who Are the Best University of Alabama Football Players of All Time?

  1. Derrick Thomas
  2. Derrick Henry
  3. Cornelius Bennett
  4. Amari Cooper
  5. Ozzie Newsome
  6. Mark Ingram
  7. Don Huston
  8. John Hannah
  9. Julio Jones
  10. Lee Roy Jordan

1. Derrick Thomas

  • Butkus Award winner (1988) 
  • Consensus All-American (1988)
  • Thomas had 27 sacks in his 1988 season
  • College Football Hall of Fame Inductee (2014)

Derrick Thomas is regarded by many as one of the greatest linebackers to ever play at Alabama. Thomas was born in 1967 in Miami, Florida. Raised by a single mother, Thomas started playing football at the age of three. Thomas dawned the Crimson Tide jersey from 1985 to 1988, before being drafted fourth overall in the 1989 NFL draft

Throughout his four seasons on the Crimson Tide, Thomas set records that still havent been broken today. Thomas holds the single season records for sacks and tackles for loss, and for blocked kicks. During his senior year, Thomas played a critical role in the Crimson Tide beating Army in the 1988 Sun Bowl. Thomas tragically lost his life in a car accident in early 2000. He was 33 years old. In 2014, Derrick Thomas was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

2. Derrick Henry

Derrick Henry is the most dominant running back in the history of Alabama football. The Florida native set the national high school rushing record before taking his talents to the University of Alabama. Henry was dubbed “King Henry” by his peers for his large size and speed. 

Henry continued to set records during his short time at Alabama. He broke the SEC single-season rushing touchdown and rushing yards record in 2015. That year, the running back went on to win the Heisman Trophy, SEC Player of the Year, and become a national champion. Henry rushed for 158 yards and had three touchdowns in the 2015 National Championship Game. After having so much success in college, Henry entered the NFL draft. Henry was drafted 45th overall in the 2016 NFL draft to the Tennessee Titans. Today, he continues to break records as a professional. 

3. Cornelius Bennett

Cornelius Bennett is an Alabama native and teammate to Derrick Thomas for a year. The linebacker quickly rose to fame during his time in college. The future college football Hall of Famer played for Alabama from 1983 to 1986. Bennett made 73 tackles during his freshman year and 102 the next. During his junior season, Bennett won the Most Valuable Defensive Player award in the Aloha Bowl. The linebacker finished up his career at the University of Alabama earning All-American honors and was named Alabama player of the decade. 

Bennett entered the NFL draft in 1987. He went on to have a long and successful career as a professional. Despite his success as a player, Bennett never won an SEC championship or a college national championship. Still, Bennett is one of the greatest players in Alabama football history.

4. Amari Cooper

Amari Cooper played for the Crimson Tide for three short years. Cooper stood out among his peers as a dominant wide receiver. Coming out of Miami, Florida, Cooper was named the fifth best wide receiver in his class. He quickly proved his critics wrong by being one of the few freshmen to have a 1,000 yard season. His eleven touchdowns during his freshman year broke the record set by wide receiver Julio Jones years prior.

Cooper turned it up a notch his Junior season. He had 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and sixteen touchdowns, earning him the Fred Biletnikoff Award for best wide receiver and a top five pick in the upcoming NFL draft. That year, the receiver helped Alabama win an SEC championship. Today, Cooper has a successful career as a wide receiver in the NFL.

5. Ozzie Newsome

  • SEC champion at Alabama (1977) 
  • SEC Lineman of the Year (1977)
  • Two-time First Team All-SEC (1976, 1977)
  • Consensus All-American (1977)

Newsome was a successful college and professional player, but he was also a successful general manager for the Baltimore Ravens. Nicknamed “The Wizard of Oz” by his peers, Newsome was a successful lineman, wide receiver, and tight end at Alabama. During the 1977 season, Newsome racked up 804 receiving yards, first in the SEC, and was named a consensus All-American. Newsome played a key role in the Crimson Tide's domination of the SEC. He left college with three SEC championships but fell short of a national title. 

Newsome was selected 23rd overall in the 1978 NFL draft and went on to have a successful professional career. In 1984, Newsome was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Today Newsome works in the Baltimore Ravens front office. During his time as General Manager, Newsome played a role in drafting nine players from the University of Alabama.

6. Mark Ingram

  • Heisman Trophy winner (2009)
  • Consensus All-American (2009)
  • SEC Offensive Player of the Year (2009)

Mark Ingram II, son of New York Giants wide receiver Mark Ingram, stepped out of his father’s shadow as a running back at the University of Alabama. Not only was Ingram the leading rusher in the nation in 2009, he also made the dean's list as a student. 

Ingram was the first Alabama football player to win the Heisman Trophy. During his Heisman season, Ingram averaged 178 rushing yards a game against top 25 teams. Ingram was truly a force to be reckoned with that season, leading the Crimson Tide to an SEC championship against the Florida Gators. He finished his college career with 3,261 total rushing yards and 42 total rushing touchdowns, placing him among the greatest of Alabama running backs.

Ingram was drafted in 2010 by the New Orleans Saints where he went on to break the franchise record for rushing yards. Ingram continues his career one of the most experienced veteran running back in the NFL today. 

7. Don Huston

  • Consensus All-American (1934)
  • First Team All-SEC (1934)
  • College Football National Champion (1934)
  • Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1951)

Don Huston, the oldest player on the list, played football at the University of Alabama in the 1930s. Huston grew up in Arkansas, and his natural athletic ability was noticed by his peers at an early age. Despite already playing baseball and running track, Huston walked onto the football team at Alabama. He didn't get much playing time at first, but that soon changed. The wide receiver caught 19 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns during the 1934 eason, earning him a consensus All-American selection. 

In the 1935 Rose Bowl, Huston went for 165 yards and two touchdowns. The Crimson Tide were victorious that day. Although the Heisman Award was introduced the following year, the committee announced they would have named Huston the winner for the 1934 season. Huston was signed by the Green Bay Packers after his senior year, and had a successful career in the NFL.

8. John Hannah

  • Two-time All-American (1971, 1972)
  • Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1999)
  • Named to the University of Alabama All-Century team.

Proclaimed by Sports Illustrated to be the greatest offensive lineman in the history of the sport, John Hannah got his start in Tuscaloosa. Hannah is the only offensive lineman on this list. He may not have the same stat lines as the rest of the list, but his impact is historic. Even the best defensive players in the SEC struggled to get past him. Hannah didn’t just dominate on the field; he was also an SEC wrestling champion and held records in shot and discus

During his college career, Hannah was a two time All-American and was awarded the Jacobs Blocking Trophy. John Hannah was drafted first in the 1973 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. The offensive lineman went on to have a successful career in the NFL. Hannah retired from the sport and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999. 

9. Julio Jones

  • BCS National Champion (2009)
  • SEC Freshman of the Year (2008)
  • First Team All-SEC (2010)
  • First true freshman to start as a wide receiver at Alabama

Julio Jones is an Alabama native and Crimson Tide legend. This well-known wide receiver made a name for himself as a star the moment he set foot in Tuscaloosa. Jones was a successful athlete in track and basketball in high school, but his love for football prevailed.

As a freshman at Alabama, he was named Second Team All-SEC and coaches First Team All-Freshmen. The start of his sophomore year was slow, but Jones turned it around. Jones rallied Alabama in the second half of the season, going 12-0 before losing in the SEC championship and the Sugar Bowl. With redemption on his mind, Jones dominated his junior year, finishing the season with 78 catches, 1,133 yards, and seven touchdowns. Jones entered the NFL draft at the end of the season and went on to have a successful professional career.

10. Lee Roy Jordan

  • Consensus All-American (1962)
  • First Team All-SEC (1962)
  • 1963 Orange Bowl MVP
  • Had 30 tackles in the 1963 Orange Bowl
  • Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1983)

Standing at 6’1 and 220 pounds, Jordan was a linebacker that packed a punch. Born in Excel, Alabama, Jordan chose to stay close to home and attend the University of Alabama in 1962. Alabama only lost two games over the three seasons Jordan played with the program. The Crimson Tide only allowed 25 points during the 1961 season and 39 in the following. 

In the 1963 Orange Bowl, Jordan had a performance that football fans today might consider impossible. The Crimson Tide matched up against rival Oklahoma. Jordan racked up 30 tackles in the game, a performance Alabama and Oklahoma fans alike would remember. Jordan was the sixth pick in the 1963 NFL draft. He played 14 years with the Dallas Cowboys, cementing his legacy as one of the best linebackers to ever emerge from the Alabama football program.

Honorable Mentions

  • Barret Jones
  • Bart Starr
  • Bryce Young
  • DeVonta Smith
  • Joe Namath
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick
  • Najee Harris
  • Shaun Alexander
  • Terrence Cody
  • Tua Tagovailoa
  • Will Anderson Jr
  • Woodrow Lowe


Who is the best Alabama quarterback of all time?

Joe Namath is the best quarterback to ever come out of the University of Alabama. Not only did Namath led his team to an SEC championship, the squad also went undefeated during that season. He led the Crimson Tide to a national title and continued to win championships in the NFL. Today he is recognized as one of the all-time greats.

Who is the best Alabama wide receiver of all time?

Amari Cooper is the best Alabama wide receiver of all time. During his time wearing the Crimson Tide Jersey, Cooper broke every record set by his predecessors. In 2014, Cooper was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders. Today, Cooper is a productive receiver in the NFL. 

Who is the best Alabama running back of all time?

Derrick Henry is the greatest running back to ever play at Alabama. His monstrous size and speed proved problematic for defenses in both the SEC and the NFL. In college, Henry shattered records at Alabama and the National level. He won a national championship at Alabama and the Heisman Award. His career in the NFL is still young and there is no doubt Henry will only get better.