An Alabama Team of the Decade has been selected by Crimson Tide fans since originated by legendary Sports Information Director Charley Thornton in 1970. The teams have been selected by readers of ’BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com the past four decades.
Rolando McClain, an All-America and winner of both the Butkus Award and the Lambert Trophy as the nation’s finest linebacker, was the leading vote-getter. He missed being unanimous because three of some 3,000 ballots did not have votes for any linebackers, the only ballots that didn’t include McClain.
“Really, I’m surprised, particularly since we had a Heisman Trophy winner in this decade,” McClain said. “There have been a lot of great players at Alabama over the past ten years, so this is really an honor that I appreciate. But it’s also a team award. Because we accomplished so much as a team, we have had a lot of individual honors.”
The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram, was also selected to the team. He is joined at running back by the man he replaced as Alabama’s starting tailback, Glen Coffee.
In addition to McClain and Ingram, members of the undefeated 2009 team selected are offensive lineman Mike Johnson, nose tackle Terrence Cody, cornerback Javier Arenas, and placekicker Leigh Tiffin, all of whom earned All-America, and wide receiver Julio Jones. Ingram and Jones, upcoming juniors, will be the only men from this honor squad with a chance to be selected when the Team of the Decade for 2010-19 is selected.
The offense is made up of two wide receivers, two running backs, a tight end, quarterback, center, and four offensive linemen. The defense is three defensive linemen, four linebackers, and four defensive backs. Two specialists—Tiffin and punter Lane Bearden—were selected.
Bearden was one of four men named to the team who played in the last decade, too. He and defensive lineman Jarret Johnson played 1999-2002, linebacker Saleem Rasheed played 1999-2001, and tight end Terry Jones Jr. played 1998-2001. None were selected to the Team of the Decade for the 1990s.
Brodie Croyle is the quarterback of the honor squad. He is joined by running backs Ingram and Coffee, wide receivers Julio Jones and Tyrone Prothro, tight end Terry Jones Jr., center Antoine Caldwell, and linemen Mike Johnson, Andre Smith, Wesley Britt, and Justin Smiley.
The defense has linemen Terrence Cody, Jarret Johnson, and Antwan Odom; linebackers McClain, Rasheed, DeMeco Ryans, and Freddie Roach; and secondary Arenas, Rashad Johnson, Roman Harper, and Charlie Peprah.
Although Nick Saban was Alabama head coach only three of the seasons of the decade, he coached 11 of the 24 players who were selected.
There were some close “races” in the selections, but none that were not decisive.
It is interesting that a Heisman Trophy winner was not the number one vote-getter, but the balloting started prior to Ingram winning that award. He did poll over 90 per cent of the votes for running back. Four others–McClain, Arenas, Tiffin, and Andre Smith–received more votes at their positions than Ingram did. Although it is hard to imagine anyone not voting for Smith–the 2008 Outland Award winner as the nation’s best lineman–the explanation is almost certainly the manner in which Smith left the team, suspended just before the Sugar Bowl for a violation of team rules, perhaps improper dealings with an agent.
Records didn’t seem to mean much to the voters. John Parker Wilson holds most Alabama passing records, but he was third in the voting at quarterback, behind Brodie Croyle and Greg McElroy. D.J. Hall, who set Alabama pass receiving records, finished behind Tyrone Prothro and Julio Jones for the two available wide receiver spots.
Alabama high schools produced 16 of the 24 selected. They are Julio Jones from Foley, Prothro from Heflin, Andre Smith and Rasheed from Birmingham, Britt from Cullman, Caldwell from Montgomery, Croyle from Rainbow City, Terry Jones Jr. from Tuscaloosa, Odom from Bayou LaBatre, McClain from Decatur, Ryans from Bessemer, Roach from Killen, Rashad Johnson from Sulligent, Harper from Prattville, Tiffin from Muscle Shoals, and Bearden from Pelham.
Five are from Florida: Mike Johnson from Pensacola, Coffee from Fort Walton Beach, Cody from Fort Myers, Jarret Johnson from Chiefland, and Arenas from Tampa.
Three states produced one each: Peprah from Plano, Texas; Smiley from Ellabell, Georgia; and Ingram from Flint, Michigan.
McClain is the third linebacker in the five decades of selections to be the Player of the Decade. Lee Roy Jordan was the honoree for the 1960s, Cornelius Bennett for the 1980s. The Player of the 1970s was Ozzie Newsome, and quarterback Jay Barker was selected for the 1990s.
Leigh Tiffin is the second player to join his father as a selection. Van Tiffin was placekicker on the 1980s team. Also on the 1980s squad was center Wes Neighbors, sone of 1960s star Billy Neighbors (who was selected both as an offensive and defensive lineman). One set of brothers has been selected, Tim Davis placekicker for the 1960s and Bill Davis for the 1970s.
The team is featured in the Spring issue of ’BAMA Magazine.