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Alabama Crimson Tide: Success in the NFL

It’s truly a beautiful thing to be successful on both sides of the coin. Though college football players have many aspirations, the main one is to make it into the National Football League in hopes to win a Super Bowl.

For the Alabama Crimson Tide, the aspect of having players succeed at the next level hasn’t been an issue. This season, Eddie Lacy totaled 284 carries for 1,178 yards with 11 touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers. Lacy helped guide Green Bay to the playoffs. He made the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl and took home a bevy of awards this season, including NFL Rookie of the Year (2013).

On one hand having regular season success is great, but as we all know legends are made in the postseason. Alabama has managed to conquer that side of the deal as well. Arthur White got the ball rolling for the Tide in 1937. As a running back, White helped the New York Giants win an NFL championship in 1938.

It would be 18 years before Alabama could claim its next NFL hero. In 1956, Bart Starr became the man. He was selected to four Pro Bowls (1960, 1961, 1962 and 1966) and was a four-time NFL champion (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967). To add the icing on the cake, Starr won two Super Bowls (Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II) with Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers. Starr was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

In 1963, Lee Roy Jordan’s star came to light. He was selected to five Pro Bowls (1967, 1968, 1969, 1973 and 1974) and helped the Dallas Cowboys capture an NFL title in Super VI. The following season (1964). Steve Wright hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy as a member of the Green Bay Packers. At the tackle position, Wright was an NFL champion (1965) and was on the team with Bart Starr when the Packers won Super Bowl’s I and II.

The most famous Alabama player success story in the post season has to be Joe Namath. After winning a national title with head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Namath became a legend in the NFL. He was selected to four AFL All-Star Games (1965, 1967, 1968 and 1969) and a Pro Bowl (1972). Namath achieved immortality by helping the New York Jets defeat the Baltimore Colts (16-7) in Super Bowl III. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

From 1966-1989, nine Alabama players (Ray Perkins, Ken Stabler, Wilbur Jackson, Charley Hannah, Johnny Davis, Jeff Rutledge, Robbie Jones, Larry Roberts and Howard Cross) celebrated Super Bowl victories. As the ‘90s rolled in, Alabama’s success in the NFL continued to grow. In 1993, Derrick Lassic helped the Dallas Cowboys defeat the Buffalo Bills 30-13 to win Super Bowl XXVIII (28).

Another Crimson Tide running back guided Dallas to immortality in 1994. With the contributions of Sherman Williams, the Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 in Super Bowl XXX (30). Rod Rutledge, Deshea Townsend and Fernado Bryant were the Tide players who ended the ‘90s being victorious in the Super Bowl.  

Currently, Alabama has seven players that have won a Super Bowl. Roman Harper got the party started in 2009. He helped the New Orleans Saints capture its first taste of Super Bowl supremacy in 2010. New Orleans defeated Indianapolis 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV (44). As a defensive back, Charlie Peprah won Super Bowl XLV (45) in 2011 with the Packers. Green Bay defeated Pittsburgh 31-25. Anthony Madison won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009. Pittsburgh defeated Arizona 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII (43).

Terrence Cody will forever be remembered as the player who saved Alabama’s perfect season in 2009. He blocked two Daniel Lincoln field goals and Alabama rode that effort by the fingernail into the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. His Super Bowl dream came true in 2013. After defeating both Denver and New England on the road, Baltimore defeated San Francisco 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII (47).

In French Montana’s song, Pop That, Drake’s verse was “It’s good to make it, better when your people make it with you.” Courtney Upshaw experienced this feeling in college and the NFL. With Alabama, Upshaw played with Cody and together they helped Alabama win a national title in the 2009 season. Believe it or not, Upshaw was a key contributor to the Ravens in the 2012 regular season. He was great in stopping the run and could rush the passer if need be. He was with Cody when Baltimore defeated the 49ers in Super Bowl 47.

On Sunday night, Jesse Williams and James Carpenter joined the fraternity of Alabama players that have won a Super Bowl. As members of the Seattle Seahawks, Williams and Carpenter contributed to the conquest. Seattle defeated Denver 43-8 in Super Bowl 48 and the franchised captured its first Vince Lombardi Trophy.

It doesn’t matter if Alabama’s coach was Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul Bryant, Gene Stallings or Nick Saban, the fact of the matter is that these players bought in to what they had to say and it has helped them become champions. The Crimson Tide is known for its rich history. The history will continue to be rich as long as the players enter with a mindset of wanting to be great.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 15 years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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