Former Alabama wide receiver David Palmer was the team’s primary target in its journey to being atop college football’s elite in 1992. Head coach Eugene “Gene” Stallings was a Paul Bryant disciple, but it took more than X’s and O’s for Alabama to win a national title.
Palmer was a rare specimen at Alabama. He possessed quickness, acceleration, hands and leaping abilities, despite standing at 5-foot-8, 173 pounds. Palmer enrolled at Alabama in 1991, and saw action in 11 games as a freshman. He averaged 18.5 yards per catch, while accounting for 314 yards with three touchdowns on 17 receptions.
Alabama fans enjoyed Palmer as a receiver, but grew to love him more as a return specialist. He recorded 386 punt return yards and three touchdowns on 24 returns.
Palmer made a significant impact in the 1992 season, despite coach Stallings’s focus on Alabama’s defense. He totaled 533 yards (297 receiving, 236 punt return) with two scores.
Palmer averaged 12.4 yards per catch in the 1992 season, and helped Alabama secure an SEC Western Division crown and a Southeastern Conference championship.
The Crimson Tide capped off the 1992 season with a 34-13 thrashing of Miami (FL) in the 1993 Sugar Bowl. It took home its 12th national title and its first since Paul Bryant in 1979.
Palmer would soon don a nickname, as the 1993 season rolled in. He was recognized as “The Deuce,” and college football commentators lusted for the opportunity to see him in the open field. Palmer had a monster season in 1993, as he put in 1,000 yards with seven touchdowns on 61 catches. His efforts earned him consensus All-American honors as a junior.
Palmer’s receptions (61) and yards from scrimmage (1,278) were good for second in the SEC, during the 1993 season. His 1,000 receiving yards led the conference in the same season. Palmer finished third in the 1993 Heisman voting, and Alabama ended the season at 9-3-1. He chimed in with 1,611 yards and 11 touchdowns on 102 catches in three years.
Palmer averaged 15.8 yards per catch, and seven yards per carry at running back (598 rushing yards). Palmer tallied 1,707 total return yards with four scores, and averaged 23.4 yards per kick return. He appeared in three bowl games for Alabama.
Palmer decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 1994 NFL Draft. He was selected in the second round (40th pick) by the Minnesota Vikings, and would spend seven years in the NFL (1994-00). Palmer played in 84 games, collecting 73 catches for 631 yards with a score.
Much of Palmer’s success in the NFL came as a return man. He had 3,274 kick return yards with one touchdown, and 1,610 punt return yards with two touchdowns. He was a three-time NFC Central Division champion (1994, 1998, 2000) and made six playoff appearances with Minnesota (1994, 1996-00).
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.