It had been 20 years since Alabama last captured a national title (1941), but the tables turned when it hired Paul Bryant from Texas A&M in 1958. Auburn was celebrating victory, prior to Bryant’s hire. The Tigers secured its first national championship in 1957 under head coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan. Jordan would later tell his players that nothing was bigger than Auburn. Bryant was out to prove him wrong, but he needed a quarterback to command his offense.
Patrick “Pat” Trammell was sold on attending Georgia Tech. He was heavily recruited by head coach Bobby Dodd, however, Bryant had his own agenda for Trammell. Bryant’s commitment to Alabama caused Trammell to leave Georgia Tech and join him. Coach Bryant promised the 1958 team that it would win a national championship in four years, if everyone stuck together.
Bryant’s prophecy was fulfilled in 1961, after three years of building. Trammell, a two-way athlete, was an efficient passer and a tough runner. He threw for 1,035 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions on a 56.4 percent completion rating in 1961. His toughness was unmatched in goal line situations, as he accounted for nine rushing touchdowns.
Trammell laid the foundation in 1961, as Alabama finished 11-0 with six shutout victories. The Crimson Tide won a Southeastern Conference title, a Sugar Bowl title and its first national championship under Bryant. Trammell would collect numerous awards after the 1961 season, including NCAA Academic All-American, SEC Most Valuable Player and first-team All-SEC.
He finished fifth in the Heisman voting, and would win the Collegiate Player of the Year Award in 1961. Trammell’s hard work made him a permanent team captain. He had his hand and cleats-print stamped into the Walk of Fame at Denny Chimes in 1961 as “most outstanding player.”
Trammell’s teammate, Billy Neighbors (1959-61), would go on to call Trammell “the smartest and best football player he’s ever played with.” Trammell ended his career at Alabama with 2,750 total yards (1,631 passing, 1,119 rushing), 24 touchdowns and four interceptions.
He compiled a 26-2-4 (87.5 percent) record as a starting quarterback, and set a single season record for lowest interception percentage in 1961 (1.5 percent). Trammell holds the record for lowest interception percentage in a career. He was picked off four times in 225 passes (1.8).
Trammell embodied the term “student-athlete.” He earned a master’s degree at 28 years old from the Medical College of Alabama, formally known as the University of Alabama in Birmingham. He was practicing medicine, in hopes of becoming a third generation doctor for his family. It didn’t come into fruition, as Trammell died of metastatic testicular cancer on Dec. 10, 1968.
Trammell will be remembered for his leap of faith. His decision join coach Bryant at Alabama instead of going to Georgia Tech changed the course of his career. Joe Namath and Ken Stabler are two names that are often mentioned when one discusses Alabama quarterbacks under Bryant, but it was Trammell that started it all.
Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.