With the college playoffs over, we thought we would look back at Alabama’s greatest running backs of all time. As one of the most highly decorated college programs in the country, Alabama has had its fair share of National Championship heroes and Heisman winners.

From stars like Derrick Henry, who is still dominating today, to John Musso, who was inducted into the college football Hall of Fame in 2000, we will be ranking them from one to ten. Join us for this journey through Alabama Football History.

Who are the Alabama Crimson Tide running backs in 2023?

The current Alabama running backs are Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams. McClellan is leading the way with 166 carries for 803 yards. He has scored 6 touchdowns and is averaging a healthy 4.8 yards per carry. Williams just edges out his partner with 5.1 yards per carry but has handled 56 fewer carries. He sits with 561 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Both players are seniors, offering up a dynamic backfield that works very well with their quarterback’s dual-threat ability. Jalen Milroe has enjoyed a great year as a passer, adding 468 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rusher. The trio will be tough to stop in the playoffs.

Alabama Crimson Tide Running Backs History

Everyone wants to be a part of the Alabama Football program. Their 16 National Championships is second to only the Yale Bulldogs, although the Bulldogs last success was in 1927. That makes Alabama the most successful program in the last century, and some of the biggest running back names in the sport have helped them lift the trophy.

Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram will be the former Alabama running backs that are most familiar to younger fans, but the likes of Shaun Alexander and Major Ogilvie certainly played their parts in the 20th century.

Famous Alabama Crimson Tide Running Backs

When discussing famous running backs from Alabama, it doesn’t get much bigger than Derrick Henry. King Henry, as he is referred to, was a beast at Alabama, and is a leading example of Alabama running backs in the NFL. He is one of only 8 running backs to pass the 2,000 rushing-yard mark, which is an incredible feat. It earned him Offensive Player of the Year in 2020.

The Alabama running back room has featured lots of famous stars across the years. Here are the 10 best Alabama running backs to grace the field.

Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Alabama Crimson Tide Running Backs of all time

  1. Sherman Williams (1991-94)

Sherman Williams’ career at Alabama improved every year. 108 yards as a freshman was followed by 299 as a sophomore, increasing to 738 yards as a junior and then capping off his Crimson Tide career with a 1,341-yard season as a senior. He tallied 27 touchdowns over his 4 years at Alabama, helping the team to a National Championship in 1992. In addition to punching in 27 scores, he became known for the ‘Sherman Shake’, his signature celebration dance that made him even more popular with the Crimson Tide. His 2,486 rushing yards ranked 5th in school history at the time, and he was recognized as an All-SEC player and Second-team All-American in 1994.

Williams entered the 1995 NFL draft, where he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round. It was an underwhelming career for the former National Champ, who amassed only 1,162 yards and 4 touchdowns as a pro. His career ended after just three seasons, promptly followed by a conviction on charges related to marijuana distribution and counterfeit currency. A brief spell in prison meant there was no return to the football field for Williams, but he did go back to Alabama to complete his degree and successfully got his life back on track.

  1. Major Ogilvie (1977-80)

During a period of time when statistics were not as eye-catching as they are now, Major Ogilvie’s contributions could not be underestimated. He was a captain during one of Alabama’s most decorated stretches in college football history, winning National Championship titles in 1978 and 1979, adding in an SEC Championship in 1977 for good measure. He earned a reputation for coming up big in the most crucial of moments and will go down as one of the school’s most celebrated sports stars.

Ogilvie was named as an All-SEC First Teamer and an Academic All-American in 1979. He was the Most Valuable Player in the 1980 Sugar Bowl as well, earning himself recognition in the All-Decade Team for the 1970s and 1980s.

Major Ogilvie was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1981, but there is very little information about his professional career. Nevertheless, he is an Alabama legend and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

  1. Eddie Lacy (2010-12)

The Alabama football roster was busy during Eddie Lacy’s tenure. His career got off to a slow start, as he found himself sharing the backfield with future NFL players Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram. After redshirting in 2009, he played a backseat role in 2010 and 2011. Both of those seasons combined saw him run for 1,080 yards and 13 touchdowns. Despite the small number of opportunities, he was incredibly efficient as a third-stringer, averaging over 7 yards per carry in both seasons.

His first true chance to show what he could do came in 2012, as he took over the backfield. Lacy averaged 6.5 yards per carry in the starting role, rushing for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns. His contributions helped the team win their third National Championship in the four years that Lacy was at Alabama (including his redshirt year), so there is no doubt that he got the taste for success. After playing second fiddle for so long, Lacy thrived in the spotlight. He rushed for 140 yards and had 2 total touchdowns in the National Championship game. He was named the Offensive MVP for the game, also earning a First-team All-SEC nod for the 2012 season.

Lacy was a powerful but agile runner and was taken by the Green Bay Packers in the 2013 NFL draft. He set franchise rookie records for rushing yards and touchdowns, also earning NFL Rookie of the Year. Lacy went over 1,000 yards in his first two seasons as a pro but didn’t top 758 yards in the three seasons that followed. Lacy’s last NFL action was in 2017 for the Seattle Seahawks.

  1. Johnny Musso (1969-71)

Johnny Musso, otherwise known as the ‘Italian Stallion’, was a stand-out player for the Crimson Tide during his time at Alabama. After a solid freshman year, Musso notched 1,000-yard seasons in 1970 and 1971. He chipped in as a receiver as well, leading the SEC in scrimmage yards in both of those seasons. As a result, he was made an All-American for both years.

1971 was the most successful season for Musso. He led the team to an undefeated regular season and a bowl game appearance in the Orange Bowl. For his efforts, he was given the SEC Player of the Year award, to go along with his All-American recognition. He was fourth in Heisman voting in 1971, also receiving plenty more praise for his work on and off the field.

His 2,742 rushing yards stood as a school record for 16 years, and he went on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000. His pro career was a short one. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1972 but opted for a better-paid offer from the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League. Musso did spend some time in the NFL a few years later but retired in 1979 after suffering a knee injury. He finished with just 365 rushing yards in the NFL.

  1. TJ Yeldon (2012-14)

TJ Yeldon hit the ground running at Alabama, notching 100 yards in his debut before going on to register 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. He helped form a formidable duo, with Eddie Lacy also topping 1,000 yards that season as a junior. Yeldon was a key part of the Crimson Tide’s National Championship success that year. He notched over 100 yards in the SEC Championship and National Championship games, including a score to help secure the title.

His first individual accolades didn’t come until 2013 though. With Eddie Lacy now in the NFL, Yeldon improved to post 1,235 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns that season. This was good enough to earn him First-team All-SEC honors. As a junior in 2014, Yeldon was joined in the backfield by a freshman named Derrick Henry. It was clear that Henry was a real player, meaning Yeldon fell just short of his third 1,000-yard season in a row for Alabama.

He still earned Second-team All-SEC honors in 2014, completing his college career with an impressive 3322 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns. It shouldn’t be underestimated what a consistent performer Yeldon was for Alabama, leaving with a National Championship title and a yardage number that sits him at 6th on the all-time school leaderboard. Not a bad haul from three years of action.

Yeldon was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He showed flashes as a rookie but never managed to establish himself. He never topped the 740 yards achieved in his first season, and his last NFL action came for the Bills in 2020.

  1. Trent Richardson (2009-11)

Trent Richardson was one-half of college football’s most dangerous backfields ever, consisting of Richardson and Mark Ingram. Both players were truly dominant Alabama football players, and the latter will be featured later on this list.

Richardson was a consistent performer for Alabama, registering at least 700 yards and 6 touchdowns in every season he had for the Crimson Tide. He was highly thought of by Nick Saban, who called him the ‘real key to the class’ and indicated that he expected big things from the freshman. Richardson did not disappoint. In just his second game, he logged 118 rushing yards and 2 scores against Florida International. Richardson’s first year at Alabama ended with another 100-yard and 2-score game against the Texas Longhorns in the National Championship game. He and Ingram both had over 100 yards to secure the title. Richardson was named to the 2009 SEC All-Freshman team.

Another strong year followed in 2010, but he saved the best until last for his Crimson Tide career. As a senior in 2011, Richardson was given the keys to the backfield after Ingram declared for the draft, and he drove the Crimson Tide to another National Championship title. He set a new single-season record with 1,679 rushing yards and an SEC record-breaking 21 touchdowns. 3 more scores as a receiver would help him tie Shaun Alexander’s SEC record of 24 total touchdowns.

His Crimson Tide career finished with 2 National Championships, an SEC Offensive Player of the Year award in 2011, 2 First-team All-SEC nods and the SEC All-Freshman recognition in 2009. He had 3,150 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns, which ensures his name still appears on most running back leaderboards for Alabama.

Richardson was drafted third overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 NFL draft. He wasn’t able to find the same magic in the NFL, never averaging over 4 yards per carry for a season or surpassing 1,000 yards. He was out of the league after 4 years.

  1. Bobby Humphrey (1985-88)

Bobby Humphrey’s career at Alabama started as part of a committee, where he familiarized himself with the college game and notched 616 scrimmage yards and 7 touchdowns while doing so. Not a bad start.

The talent was clearly there, as Humphrey earned the starting role as a sophomore. With the backfield mostly to himself, Humphrey led the team with 1,471 yards and 15 touchdowns. He capped the season off with a brilliant 3 touchdown performance against the Washington Huskies in the Sun Bowl, helping the team achieve a 10-3 record. Despite not making it to the college playoffs, it was an incredible sophomore season for Humphrey. He earned Second-team, All-American honors, announcing himself as one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the college game.

He lived up to the reputation in 1987, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark again with ease. His 1,255 yards and 11 touchdowns came at an average of 5.3 yards per carry, helping the team to another bowl game, which they unfortunately lost. Humphrey was named a First-team All-American in 1987, also being recognized as UPI’s Offensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, that was his last full year, as injury would mean he only played 2 games in 1988. His 3,420 rushing yards were a school record at the time, and his 284-yard effort against Mississippi State in 1986 still sits second in school history for a single game.

Humphrey was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 1989 Supplemental Draft. He played 4 seasons in the NFL, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie and a freshman before a hold-out dispute led to him falling out of favor with the team. He managed one more season with Miami before calling it a day.

  1. Shaun Alexander (1995-99)

Alabama knew they had a good one early on in Shaun Alexander’s time at the school. As a freshman, he rushed for a school-record 291 yards in a single game, which still stands today. He also had 4 touchdowns on the day, helping the team defeat their rivals, the LSU Tigers 26-0. After a good 10-3 record in 1996, the Crimson Tide managed only 4 victories in 1997, before improving to 7-5 in 1998. Alexander was a key player in this turnaround.

The 1998 season was Alexander’s third with the Crimson Tide, and it saw him record a career-high 1,178 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. This impressive total was more than he had managed in his first two seasons combined. He thrived in the starting role, improving yet again in 1999 to post 1,383 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also contributed over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns receiving in each of his last two years, confirming his status as a true offensive star.

For his efforts, Alexander earned First-team All-SEC and All-American honors in 1999. He led the team to an SEC Championship and finished 7th in Heisman Trophy voting. To this day, Alexander sits in the top-5 of most school rushing records, with his 291 yards as a freshman still standing as the best by any Alabama player.

The success continued for Alexander in the NFL. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2000 and would go on to become the NFL MVP in 2005. His career finished in 2008 after he had racked up 9,453 rushing yards and 100 touchdowns at 4.3 yards per carry.

  1. Mark Ingram (2008-2010)

Mark Ingram enjoyed a stellar career at Alabama, only needing three seasons to register his name in the history books. He hit the ground running as a freshman in 2008, notching 728 yards and 12 touchdowns, after initially starting the year as the backup. His 12 scores were a school record for a freshman, setting the tone for a dominant career.

He followed up his strong freshman year in style by going for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2009. He also tacked on 334 yards and another 3 touchdowns through the air, coming very close to surpassing the 2,000 yards from scrimmage mark as a sophomore. His incredible season helped the team to a National Championship victory over the Texas Longhorns. He was also honored with a Heisman Trophy that season, making him the first-ever Heisman Trophy winner to come from Alabama. At 19 years old, he was also the youngest player to win the award.

After missing a few games at the beginning of his 2010 season at Alabama, Ingram posted another successful year. He rushed for 875 yards and 13 touchdowns at 5.5 yards per carry. It rounded out an incredible career that tallied 3,261 rushing yards and a new school record of 42 touchdowns. His best year in 2009 not only saw him win the Heisman Trophy and a National Championship but also be recognized as the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and a Unanimous All-American.

This unsurprisingly led to a high selection in the 2011 draft, as the New Orleans Saints took him in the first round. Ingram spent the majority of his career in New Orleans, where he rushed for a total of 8,111 yards and 65 touchdowns. Ingram earned 3 Pro Bowl selections, making him one of the most successful Alabama players in the NFL.

  1. Derrick Henry (2013-2015)

There is only one player who can sit at the number one spot. Derrick Henry is second on the all-time rushing leaderboard for Alabama, despite playing just three seasons with the Crimson Tide. His impressive tally is helped by a truly remarkable season in 2015 when Henry set the single-season rushing record for Alabama with 2,219 yards. For context, the next best single-season effort from an Alabama running back came from Trent Richardson with 1,679 yards. Yes, Derrick Henry beat the next-best record by over 500 yards.

To go along with his 2,219 rushing yards in 2015, Henry also scored 28 rushing touchdowns, carrying the team to a National Championship title. In doing so, he became one of only four running backs in college football history to win the National Championship and the Heisman Trophy. He was unstoppable.

Henry declared for the draft after his third season at Alabama. He set records for almost everything you can think of. His 3,591 rushing yards were the most in school history at the time, he had the most yards in a single season, the most touchdowns in a single season, and he tied Mark Ingram for the most touchdowns in school history with 42.

Henry was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft. He is still with the team today, collecting 9,210 yards at an average of 4.7 yards per carry. His best year was in 2020 when he rushed for 2,027 yards and was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year.

Parameters for Rankings

This list ranking the best Alabama RBs in program history has been organized based on each players contribution to the Crimson Tide specifically. While their NFL accomplishments have been mentioned, they did not impact the rankings.


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