Which Alabama Player Most Deserved to Win the Heisman Trophy?

TUSCALOOSA AL - OCTOBER 02: Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after their 31-6 win over the Florida Gators at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 2 2010 in Tuscaloosa Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It has become an accepted part of Alabama football lore that the reason the Crimson Tide has so few Heisman Trophy winners is due to a historical emphasis on team play to win championships. Still, the fact is a host of spectacular players have worn the Crimson and White over the years and many of them were arguably deserving of college football's highest award for individual performance despite their final showing on the ballot.

While Mark Ingram is sole Alabama player to be presented the trophy by the Downtown Athletic Club, no less than nine others have finished in the top five in the award voting (including one who did so on two occasions) and another eight more have been among the top ten. The list includes many of the Crimson Tide's greatest players -- on both sides of the ball.

So after the jump we look at each and every Alabama player who finished in the top-ten in the Heisman Trophy balloting and what specific issues may have kept them from taking the trophy home those particular seasons. And there is also a poll to vote on which of Alabama's players who finished in the top five you feel actually deserved the trophy itself.

The following chart lists all the Alabama players who earned tenth or better in voting for the Heisman Trophy. Those that made it into the top five are designated in light red (these are also the players who appear in the attached poll). Alabama's lone Heisman winner -- Mark Ingram -- is designated in crimson.

Year Alabama Player Place Winner Other candidates
2011 Trent Richardson
Junior, Running Back
Third Robert Griffin III
Jr., QB, Baylor
Andrew Luck, Stanford
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Trent Richardson's Heisman hopes ran into the media fascination with quarterbacks and possibly the backlash from Mark Ingram's victory two years earlier (see below). He finished 5th in the nation in yards per game (129.15) and his 1,679 yards rushing was a full two-thirds of Alabama's production on the ground. Oh, and almost half of his yards that season came after contact. Still, RGIII's phenomenal 2011 performance was just too much to overcome in the eyes of the voters.
2009 Mark Ingram
Sophomore, Running Back
First Mark Ingram
Soph., RB, Alabama
Toby Gerhart, Stanford
Colt McCoy, Texas
Mark Ingram became the first Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy in the closest vote in the award’s 75-year history (just 28 points ahead of Stanford running back Toby Gerhart). Despite being the best player on the best team in the country, critics decried his output and then his importance to the success of his team. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh became the sweetheart for the latter when he sacked fellow Heisman hopeful Colt McCoy 4.5 times in the Big XII title game (while Marcell Darius only needed to do it once). In the end, Ingram's only real competition was Gerhart whose stats were superior but his team's win total was not.
1999
Shaun Alexander
Senior, Running Back
Seventh Ron Dayne
Sr., RB, Wisconsin
Mike Vick, Va. Tech
Drew Brees, Purdue
When Shaun Alexander returned for his senior season in 1999 he was on just about everyone's Heisman short list. The first setback was the Tide's loss to Louisiana Tech but any hopes of earning the trophy by on-field performance alone were were dashed when he suffered an ankle injury against Tennessee. He finished the year with 1,383 yards -- 451 behind Heisman winner Ron Dayne. Still, Alexander's three touchdowns against Auburn ensured an Iron Bowl victory and he sealed the SEC Championship against No. 3 Florida with 25-yard TD in overtime.
1994 Jay Barker
Senior, Quarterback
Fifth Rashaan Salaam
Jr., RB, Colorado
Ki-Jana Carter, Penn St.
Steve McNair, Alcorn St.
Perhaps no Alabama signal-caller suffered more from the steeotype of the team's propensity to produce "game manager" quarterbacks than Jay Barker. In three years as the Tide's QB, Barker lead the team to 35-2-1 record but it earned him little respect from the national media. His 1,996 passing yards and 14 touchdowns brought Alabama a 12-1 record but voters found it paltry beside Kerry Collins' 2,679 yards in the air, Rashaan Salaam's 2,055 yards on the ground and Steve McNair's 5,799 total yards.
1993 David Palmer
Junior, Quarterback/Wide Receiver
Third Charlie Ward
Sr., QB, Florida State
Heath Shuler, Tennessee
Marshall Faulk, SDSU
The Deuce was one of the most electrifying players ever to play for the Crimson Tide and he was at his best in the oft-overlooked 1993 season. It was that year Palmer became Alabama's first 1,000-yard receiver on the way to earning 1,961 all-purpose yards and a ridiculous 13.4 yards per reception. His third place showing in the Heisman race was the best ever for an Alabama player but the specter of an NCAA investigation and the voters' fetish for quarterbacks proved insurmountable. Charlie Ward threw for more than 3,000 yards on the way to a national championship and the trophy while runner-up Heath Shuler collected 2,353 yards in the air.
1992 Eric Curry
Senior, Defensive End
Tenth Gino Torretta
Sr., QB, Miami
Garrison Hearst, Georgia
Drew Bledsoe, Wash St.
More Alabama fans probably remember that Gino "fear in his eyes" Torretta won the Heisman in 1992 than recall Tide defensive end Eric Curry was also in the running for it. Yet Curry was a force on the Crimson Tide's No. 1 ranked defense and earned consensus All-American honors to prove it. All told during 1992, Curry collected 10.5 sacks, 27 quarterback hurries and 7 tackles for a loss -- numbers that would wow Alabama fans if it weren't for...
1988 Derrick Thomas
Senior, Linebacker
Tenth Barry Sanders
Jr., RB, Oklahoma St.
Rodney Peete, USC
Troy Aikman, UCLA
Arguably the greatest defensive player in Alabama's history, Derrick Thomas was never more dominant than the 1988 season. Among the Alabama records he set in 1988 that still stand are 27 sacks on the season -- which is still an NCAA record as well -- (five sacks against Texas A&M), 44 quarterback hurries (nine against Penn State), 12 tackles for loss and two blocked kicks against Kentucky. Still, no defensive player was going to win the Heisman in a year that Barry Sanders ran for 2,628 yards and 39 touchdowns (at the time of the award voting) and quarterbacks like Peete and Aikman were lighting up the Pac 10.
1987 Bobby Humphrey
Junior, Running Back
Tenth Tim Brown
Sr., WR, Notre Dame
Thurman Thomas, Okla St.
Emmitt Smith, Florida
Bobby Humphrey's 1,255 yards and 11 touchdowns in the 1987 season probably didn't help him in his Heisman campaign since they were actually a step back from his 1986 performance (1,471 yards, 15 touchdowns). Yet he lived up to his reputation as a versatile player his Junior season by also collecting a 23.7 yard kick return average and even threw a pass for 57 yards. Come December though a pool of Heisman candidates ridiculously deep in running backs doomed his chances at the award as surely as a broken foot did the following season.
1986 Cornelius Bennett
Senior, Linebacker
Seventh Vinnie Testaverde
Sr., QB, Miami
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma
One of the most dominant linebackers Alabama ever produced, "Biscuit" racked up 61 tackles and 10 sacks in 1986 and none sweeter than this one. The ridiculous amount of attention given to Oklahoma's roided-up clown-in-residence, Brian Bosworth, made it all but impossible for another defensive player to get a nod by the Downtown Athletic Club. Like other Miami quarterbacks, Vinnie Testaverde took home the trophy and promptly lost the national championship to a defensive-minded team.
1983 Walter Lewis
Senior, Quarterback
Ninth Mike Rozier
Sr., RB, Nebraska
Steve Young, BYU
Doug Flutie, Boston College
Walter Lewis' place in Alabama football history is secure as he was the first black starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide. He also was a candidate for the Heisman Trophy in 1983 although his chances of winning it were slim having thrown for 1,991 yards and 14 touchdowns (as well as 15 interceptions). While a running back claimed the trophy that year, Lewis' faced an uphill battle from the very start given the incredible amount of quarterbacking talent in the 1983 Heisman class: Steve Young, Doug Flutie, Turner Gill, Jeff Hostetler and Boomer Esiason.
1979 Steadman Shealy
Senior, Quarterback
Tenth Charles White
Sr., RB, USC
Billy Sims, Oklahoma
Art Schlichter, OSU
Steadman Shealy lead Alabama to 28 consecutive wins and two national championships he couldn't muster better than 10th in the Heisman race, most probably due to the effect of the Wishbone offense on his stat line. In 1979 Shealy actually gained more yards on the ground (791) than he did in the air (717). Voters found the performance of running backs Charles White (1,803 yds, 18 tds) and Billy Sims (1,506 yds, 22 tds) much more to their liking.
1972 Terry Davis
Senior, Quarterback
Fifth Johnny Rogers
Sr., WB, Nebraska
Rich Glover, Nebraska
Bert Jones, LSU
In 1972 Sports Illustrated described Alabama's Terry Davis' arm and statistics as "ungodlike" but were suitably impressed by his ability to lead the Tide to victory. That pretty much summed up his Heisman fate as well. Alabama had a single loss in the regular season but Davis finished with a pedestrian 777 yards passing and six touchdowns -- almost exactly half the totals of LSU's Bert Jones who finished right ahead of him in the voting. Moreover, there was no way Davis would beat out Nebraska's Johnny Rogers with the memory of the latter's dominant performance against the Tide in the previous season's Orange Bowl fresh in the minds of the award voters.
1971 Johnny Musso
Senior,Halfback
Fourth Pat Sullivan
Sr., QB, Auburn
Ed Marinaro, Cornell
Greg Pruitt, Oklahoma
In his Junior season, Johnny Musso rushed for 1,137 yards and he seemed primed for a Heisman-caliber year as 1971 opened. Instead Alabama switched to the Wishbone offense and stymied production of the Tide's "Italian stallion" significantly. Musso doubled his touchdown tallies (16) over 1970 but ran for about 50 yards fewer. While Musso still finished as high in the Heisman voting as any Alabama player ever had it wasn't enough to match Sullivan's 2,012 yard, 20 touchdown 1971 campaign. (But we should note that Alabama stomped Auburn that year, 31-7.)
1965 Steve Sloan
Senior, Quarterback
Tenth Mike Garrett
Sr., RB, USC
Bob Griese, Purdue
Steve Spurrier, Florida
While Joe Namath and Ken Stabler are the brightest stars in the firmament of Alabama quarterbacks, it was only their contemporary Steve Sloan who ever vied for the Heisman Trophy. In 1965 Sloan threw for 1,453 yards and 10 touchdowns, and led the nation with a 153.8 pass efficiency ratio. Despite these accomplishments (as well as leading the Tide the the National Championship) Sloan was eclipsed in the Heisman voter's eyes by Florida's Spurrier (1,893) and Purdue's Griese (1,719) his chance at the Heisman was infinitesimal in the wake of Garrett's 3,221 yards rushing that season.
1962 Lee Roy Jordan
Senior, Center/Linebacker
Fourth Terry Baker
Sr., QB, Oregon State
Jerry Stovall, LSU
George Mire, Miami
Lee Roy Jordan's fourth-place finish in the 1962 Heisman voting remains the closest an Alabama defensive player and/or lineman has come to claiming the award. Jordan was key to a defense that held opponents to 39 points (a step back from '61s total of 25), 588 yards rushing and 994 yards passing. After the Heisman Trophy was awarded, Jordan recorded an astonishing 31 tackles the 1963 Orange Bowl -- an Alabama record although it remains unofficial as defensive stats did not include tackles in that era.
1961
Pat Trammell
Senior, Quarterback
Fifth Ernie Davis
Sr., HB, Syracuse
Bob Ferguson, Ohio St.
James Saxton, Texas
It is impossible to argue that Pat Trammell was not the most important player on the best team in college football in 1961. Trammell passed for 1,035 yards and eight touchdowns on a team that made twice it's yardage on the ground. Yet the historical importance of Ernie Davis becoming the first African-American to receive the Heisman Trophy has completely eclipsed any debate that may have existed concerning the 1961 selection. Davis bested Ohio State fullback Bob Feruson by a mere 53 points -- the second closest margin for the award after Mark Ingram's 2009 selection.
1947 Harry Gilmer
Senior, Quarterback
Fifth Johnny Lujack
Sr., QB, Notre Dame
Doak Walker, SMU
Bobby Lane, Texas
1945 Harry Gilmer
Senior, Quarterback
Fifth Felix "Doc" Blanchard
Jr., FB, Army
Glenn Davis, Army
Bob Fenimore, Okla A&M
Harry Gilmer was one of the greatest offensive skill players in Alabama football history, he just had the misfortune to be a contemporary with some of the greatest passers in the history of the game. Gilmer is also the Crimson Tide's only two-time Heisman trophy finalist. Gilmer was a true triple threat player during his four seasons in Tuscaloosa. In 1945 he threw for 905 yards, ran for 552 and had an 14.7 yard average for punt and kick returns. Two years later he threw for 612 yards, ran for 167 yards. He had a 18.1 yard punt return average, a 25.7 kick return average and a 36.4 yard punting average. While those offensive numbers may seem tepid by today's standards they were excellent for the era. In comparison, 1947 Heisman winner Johnny Lujack led Notre Dame to an undefeated record tallying 61 passes on a 109 attempts for 777 yards and rushing for 139 yards.
1937 Joe Kilgrow
Senior, Halfback
Fifth Clint Frank
Sr., HB, Yale
Byron White, Colorado
Marshall Goldberg, Pitt
Alabama saw its first Heisman Trophy finalist in the awards' third year and, from the start, the Tide's premium on defense may have ruined its nominee's chances. Joe Kilgrow was an electrifying triple-threat back on a team that earned an undefeated regular-season record by its ability to keep opponents out of the end zone. Alabama allowed just 20 points to it's own 225 all season. Yet Kilgrow was passed over for four players who would later be named to the College Football Hall of Fame.
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