The University of Alabama is not short on football history. Anyone who has followed the college game is aware of this, particularly in the last ten or so years. While plenty of players have gone on to have wonderful NFL careers, the one position consistently agreed to be the most important in sports hasn’t been a historical calling-card for the Crimson Tide. Successful quarterbacks have played for Alabama, but not one has taken home a Heisman Trophy, despite voters typically choosing finalists that play on teams with the best records (you might already know this, but Alabama has won a lot through the years). For that reason, we rank the top five quarterbacks to play for the Tide. Defense is their blueprint, but the signal callers have still been important to the program’s history.
5. Greg McElroy (2006-10)
Born: Los Angeles, California
Weight: 225 lbs.
While old timers might not agree with this one, it’s important to consider the victories that McElroy helped orchestrate. After redshirting his freshman year and sitting behind John Parker Wilson in 2007 and 2008, McElroy led the Tide to a National Title in 2009 over Texas. While several remember Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy suffering a shoulder injury early in that ballgame and consequently gifting the game to McElroy, the first-time starter provided exceptional leadership up to that point. A dramatic Iron Bowl victory was rooted on the heels of the man under center along with the upset of Tim Tebow and Florida the next week in the SEC Championship Game, leading to McElroy receiving the MVP award.
During the following season, he would set a single-season passing record in program history and throw 116 pass attempts without an interception. While not a highly touted an NFL prospect, he was taken in the seventh round by the New York Jets in 2011.
4. Pat Trammell (1958-61)
Born: Scottsboro, Alabama
Weight: 200 lbs.
Trammell was the first quarterback under legendary head coach Bear Bryant and he was a star. Trammell still holds two impressive school records with the lowest single-season interception percentage and career interception percentage. Not turning the ball over was key in leading Bama to a National Championship in 1961, a season in which the Tide finished undefeated and Trammell was awarded SEC Player of the Year.
While that season was the pinnacle of his college career, Trammell’s first season under center was 1959 as a sophomore when he led the team in total offense. In 1960, he led the team in scoring and was chosen as team captain prior to the following perfect season. Needless to say, things only got better with time, and despite having the interest from Green Bay Packer head coach Vince Lombardi, Trammell elected not to pursue the NFL due to his academic success. He would go on to medical school after finishing his undergrad and would graduate summa cum laude.
3. Ken Stabler (1964-67)
Born: Foley, Alabama
Weight: 215 lbs.
Stabler passed away early in 2015 and while predominately known for leading the Oakland Raiders to glory and fully embracing the persona of the organization, Stabler was a decorated Crimson Tide quarterback.
While he couldn’t play in 1964 because rules prohibited freshmen from playing at the time, Stabler’s delay was continued due to the presence of Joe Namath and Steve Sloan. In his first season taking over quarterback duties, “The Snake” helped the team to an 11-0 record and a landslide Sugar Bowl victory over Nebraska. His senior season ended with him getting kicked off the team for cutting class, but it did include a famous Iron Bowl victory tabbed as, “The Run in the Mud.” The play consisted of Stabler dashing through a soggy field for a 53-yard score that was the difference in the game. After his coaching career, Bryant would call it one of his favorite plays.
The Snake would play for the Raiders from 1970-79 winning Super Bowl XI and appear in four Pro Bowls. He would briefly call Alabama football games on the radio, starting in the early 2000s and ending in 2008.
2. AJ McCarron (2009-13)
Born: Mobile, Alabama
Weight: 220 lbs.
Three National Championships in 2009, 2011, and 2012 practically tell the whole story of AJ McCarron. While he did backup McElroy in the 2009 title run, he provided an exceptional grasp of Nick Saban’s offense that required several play-action passes deep down the field. Despite riding Trent Richardson for much of the 2011 campaign, McCarron took home MVP honors in the National Championship against LSU, completing 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards with zero interceptions in a historical defensive game.
He continued to take care of the ball and broke an SEC record for the most pass attempts without an interception (291) until losing it in 2012. In that season he would set the school record for single-season touchdown passes (30) and then break McElroy’s school passing yard record while leading the country in passing efficiency. He was nearly flawless in the National Championship against Notre Dame tossing four touchdowns.
McCarron would be drafted in the fifth round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014 and prove to be a capable NFL backup by taking over for an injured Andy Dalton midway through the 2015 season.
Despite having great success on the field, to some McCarron is known best for marrying a former Miss Alabama winner who attended the University of Auburn.
1. Joe Namath (1961-64)
Born: Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
Weight: 200 lbs.
“Broadway Joe” of course gets his nickname from quarterbacking the New York Jets and winning Super Bowl III en route to his Hall of Fame NFL career. But long before that, Namath was successful in winning games in Tuscaloosa.
He began his college career by sporting a 9-1 record in 1962 and beating Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. In 1963, the Tide rolled to an 8-2 record but Namath was suspended during the last two games of the season and did not play against Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl.The next year, Alabama won the National Championship and despite a nagging injury that would become commonplace throughout his NFL career, he received all-SEC and all-American honors for that season.
Being the hottest draft candidate in both the NFL and AFL, Namath would choose the AFL Jets and receive the largest contract in history at the time. While his career was famous for playing football, he was also well known for starring in Hollywood films and staying out late in Manhattan with the likes of the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle.
All-in-all, Namath is the most successful man to play quarterback for Alabama and translate that success over to professional football. His charming personality and loveable antics off the field make him a household name for even the casual Crimson Tide fan.