Today’s task, as one might expect, is to select the top four running backs in Alabama football history.
Sometimes much time is spent on such projects, but because there is so much room for debate on such an issue, this is more along the lines of snap judgment.
For one thing, there were great Alabama backs from the 1920s on who have not been seen, even on film. It could be that a Johnny Mack Brown or Johnny Cain or Joe Kilgrow – legendary backs who played before I was born – should be on the list. How about Harry Gilmer, who was a halfback in the Notre Dame box, which meant he was runner and passer (though probably remembered most for his passing)?
Even in the T-formation era there are backs whose reputations were outstanding – notably, Bobby Marlow – but how do you compare them to backs in today’s game?
Nevertheless, the choice of top four must be made. We take no offense at those who take issue with these picks, because we know we have left off worthy choices.
For our money, though, we would be thrilled to have any of these:
Johnny Musso, All-America in 1970 and 1971 and the featured back for Coach Paul Bryant as Bama made the move from a pro-set offense to the wishbone. Musso, known as “The Italian Stallion,” rushed for over 1,100 yards in both his junior and senior seasons.
Major Ogilvie never even led Alabama in rushing in his four-year career, but he was a clutch performer on teams that went 44-4 and won two national championships and put together a school record 28-game winning streak. He is the only man ever to have scored a touchdown in four consecutive major bowl games.
Shaun Alexander was a little-used backup in 1996 when he was inserted into the game against LSU in Baton Rouge. In that game he ran for an Alabama record 291 yards and four touchdowns on just 20 attempts. He finished his career with a Tide record 3,565 yards.
Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2009 as a sophomore in leading Alabama to an undefeated season and the national championship under Coach Nick Saban. As a sophomore he rushed 271 times for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns.
it is easy to imagine that someone having a list that includes entirely different players.
It was difficult to leave off the likes of Bobby Humphrey, Wilbur Jackson, Johnny Davis, Tony Nathan, Siran Stacy, Sherman Williams, Dennis Riddle, Shaud Williams, and Saban’s three latest – Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, and T.J. Yeldon.