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Though this is indeed one of the great plays in Tide lore, who can say it’s the best of all time? (photo by Myteamprints)

The Best Alabama Play of All Time

By: Larry Burton

Today I was asked a question by a young fan. It was a simple question with a very complicated answer, so complicated I don’t think I, or anyone else for that matter, can answer correctly.

The question was, “What is the all time best play by Alabama in all of history?”

The first plays that came to mind were the ones I remembered seeing myself. “Well, there was Tyrone Prothro’s catch behind the defenders back. That one might be in the top 10.” I said. Then there was George Teague, an Alabama safety who stripped the ball from Miami receiver Lamar Thomas, who was streaking for what appeared to be a sure touchdown. He not only stripped him of the ball, but after doing so, turned and ran it back the other way. That was something too. Both plays showed amazing concentration, super human skill, a little luck but mainly a desire to never give up on a play.” I explained.

“But wait, Terrence “Mt.” Cody’s second blocked field goal against Tennessee was also a play that without it, may have cost Alabama a national championship season. To block one in a game is something, to block a second with the game clock ticking to a close is really something.” I said.

But then it dawned on me that I was being a little skewed in my answers. I was responding to only those things I had seen myself and not allowing for the whole 122 years of history.

What about Kenny Stabler’s “Run in the mud” against Auburn back in the 60’s? What about Barry Krause’s famous “Goal line stand” that won a national championship for the Tide in the 70’s? Then there was Van Tiffin’s 52 yard miracle field  goal with just two seconds left on the clock to beat Auburn in the 80’s.

Then there were plays I’m sure I didn’t even know about from the other glory years of of early century successes at the Rose Bowl.

Weren’t all the great plays of Alabama’s history a little like the Crimson Tide’s children? How do a choose a favorite among your children?

In the end I felt compelled to give an answer and one that could be easily understood by the young man who asked me. “You know, to pick just one play would be impossible, but I feel like I can give you an answer that will give you insight into the one thing you can easily point to. Every great play that could be considered has one thing in common, belief.” I said to the young man and I could tell I had peaked his interest by the look his eyebrows were making.

“What do mean?” he asked. “Belief in themselves?”

“Yes, but to a very minor degree.” I explained. “They had the belief that if they gave it their all, their team mates would give their all too and that anything is possible when 11 men play as one. ” I could tell he wasn’t totally understanding my point so I told him a famous coach Paul “Bear” Bryant quote, “You must learn how to hold a team together. You must lift some men up, calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat. Then you’ve got yourself a team.” Bryant once said.

“Eleven men playing as one, with one heartbeat, is kind of like saying they are all on the same page.” I said. “And the words on that page are the words that they not only all know, but live, breathe and believe. Those words are, “Do your best”, “Believe in those around you”, “Every man will have his moment, make yours one to remember, you can be the difference” and finally, “No play, no drive, no game is over until you say it’s over. Never give up on a play, a drive or a game.” I said with my teacher’s voice.

“All the men in any of the plays that could be considered to be the very best play of all time all had those beliefs. They were all on that page. They didn’t wonder if they ready for the moment, they believed. So the best play of all time was “Belief”, because no matter what particular play you have in mind in whatever order, the one thing they all have in common is those players belief.” I concluded.

“That’s cool.” he told me, but like most young people he still hadn’t satisfied with the answer I’d given him and I see in his face he hadn’t gotten the answer he really wanted and my attempt to give an prose filled, writer worthy answer wasn’t what he had hoped to learn. “But I’d still like to know what one play was the very best.” he finally told me.

“So go Google it.” I said in exasperation. “I’m sure they’ll have your answer.” I finished with a failure’s voice. Sometimes even the best of intentions, the most thoughtful explanations and sense of history just won’t make it with this young generation who are used to getting an answer, right or wrong, but quickly from the internet.

But I felt somewhat vindicated to come home this afternoon and see the fact Google was unable to come up with a better answer than what I had given the young man and now I’m convinced that perhaps I was correct. There is no one play that without question or debate that can be called the best one of all time, but there is one thing they did in fact have common, belief.

So take that Google!

Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at
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Larry Burton is a member of the Football Writers of America Association (FWAA) and was the most read SEC and Alabama football writer during his time at Bleacher Report. He has been credentialed by all the major bowls and the University of Alabama. Larry provides some of the best insight in the business through his "Larry's Lowdown" segment with TDA.

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