1970 was a rocky yet important year for Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and the Crimson Tide football program, as well as the state of Alabama and the country.
Alabama won the 1964 and 1965 national championships and were on their way to an unprecedented third in a row when controversy hit. Despite being the only undefeated team in 1966 at 11-0, the Tide was left at #3. Ahead of them were Notre Dame and Michigan State who had played to an infamous tie game, a meeting that still sparks conversations down at the barbershop to this day.
The 1966 Alabama team won by an average score of 27-4, had 6 shutouts, and gave up a TOTAL of 44 points on the season but were still denied the number one ranking. Some sports historians theorized that this was backlash against Bama and the South in general for their segregation of the football teams, as well as violent resistance by some white Alabamians against the Civil Rights Movement.
1967 through 1969 were "off" years by Bama standards: no SEC Championships and bowl losses with the Tide going 8-2-1, 8-3, and 6-5. Bear Bryant was at a crossroads. Enter Wilbur Jackson.
Although Alabama had accepted African-American walk-ons as early as 1967, Jackson was the first African-American football player to sign with Alabama. Even though he signed with the Crimson Tide in 1970, he couldn't play until the 1971 season because the NCAA had a rule that didn't allow freshman to play - an inconvenient fact that some misinformed Southern Cal fans would like to forget.
Jackson went on to star at Alabama and help bring the team back to prominence including the 1973 National Championship. Though he was recruited as a receiver, Bryant switched to the wishbone offense and Jackson became a running back. Seeing big #80 breaking through the line must have been a sight to see.
In the three years Jackson played (1971-1973), Alabama only lost four games. He finished with 1529 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns, and 7.2 yards per carry. From 1971 to 1979, the Tide went on a tear winning 8 of 9 conference titles and 3 National Championships (1973, 1978, 1979).
The 49ers drafted Jackson #9 overall. He went on to play in the nine NFL seasons and won aring with Washington in 1980.