The thing about Alabama is it has never been known for its quarterbacks. It has always had great running backs of course, including their past six starters at running back who have all made it to the NFL. Alabama has produced a few of the greatest linebackers of all time. In the Nick Saban era we have seen a lot of defensive tackles and defensive backs end up in the NFL, and lately, they usually have one linebacker per year who goes in the first round. But nobody ever thinks about the quarterbacks for the Tide. The goal for a QB at Alabama is to be known as great “game manager”. The guys who make the right throws, get the ball in the hands of their playmakers, and avoid mistakes. They are not expected to make plays with their arm or put up big numbers through the air. Nevertheless, Alabama has a long history of quarterbacks who did make it to the NFL. They do not have many stars, and most Bama QBs have sat on the bench for most of their NFL careers, but they do have three Hall of Famers. Read on for the definitive ranking of Alabama Quarterbacks who made it to the NFL... and of course, Roll Tide!
16 Mike Shula
The ultimate coach’s son, Mike Shula’s father was of course legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula. Shula the younger played at Alabama for four years, starting for three. He was not that athletic and his arm was nothing special, but he was smart, worked hard, and was scrappy and tough when the team needed him. Over his career at Alabama he threw for over 4000 yards and 35 touchdowns. He won two bowl games with the Tide, going 9-2-1 as a junior, and 10-3 as a senior as Alabama finished in the top ten. Shula was not highly regarded coming out of college but managed to get drafted in the 12th round with the 313th pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He played for a year with the Bucs, but did not make it into any games, before deciding to follow in dad’s footsteps by becoming a football coach.
15 John Parker Wilson
The last starting quarterback from the University of Alabama who does not have a national championship was Nick Saban’s first starter way back in 2007 and 2006. Despite not playing for one of the many championship teams that came after him, John Parker Wilson (Pictured Right) graduated with all time records in most of the significant passing categories for the school. Wilson started for three seasons, leading the Tide to a 12-2 record and a number six final ranking as a senior. Wilson was not drafted, but the Atlanta Falcons signed him as a free agent in 2009. He played a few pre-season games and was signed to the active roster a few times by various teams but never played a regular season game in the NFL.
14 Jay Barker
Over four years with the University of Alabama, Jay Barker led the Crimson Tide to a 35-2-1 record for coach Gene Stallings. Barker threw for almost 3700 yards during his career with 26 touchdown passes. He helped the Tide win their last National Championship before the Nick Saban era, going undefeated in 1992 and winning the Sugar Bowl over the Miami Hurricanes to finish 13-0 and number one in the nation. Barker was the SEC Player of the Year in 1994 while winning the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as well. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers but did not make the team. He did end up with the Patriots and Panthers over the next two seasons but did not actually make it into any games.
13 Butch Avinger
Butch Avinger played two years for the University of Alabama as a quarterback and running back. He compiled over 1100 yards of total offense during his career with 13 total touchdowns. During his senior season he helped lead the Crimson Tide to a 9-2 record while finishing number 16 in the nation. He ended up becoming a first round pick in the 1951 NFL Draft as the Pittsburgh Steelers took him with the ninth overall pick. He did not make the team that year and ended up playing one season in the Canadian Football League for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He finally made it to the NFL in 1953 with the New York Giants but only played one season mostly as a punter and a running back.
12 Ed Salem
In addition to being Alabama’s leading passer in 1948, 1949, and 1950, Ed Salem also starred in all phases of the game for the Tide, playing on offense, defense, and special teams as both a returner and a kicker. Salem was the team’s leader in interceptions in 1949, he was the leading rusher in 1948, and was the top punt returner for the Alabama in 1950. Upon wrapping up his career in Tuscaloosa, Salem was drafted in the second round with the 15th overall pick by the Washington Redskins in the 1951 NFL Draft. He played for one year in Washington, recording five interceptions on defense but also throwing two with no touchdowns as a quarterback. He then moved to the Canadian Football League for the remainder of his pro career.
11 Steve Sloan
A member of the back to back national championship teams in 1964 and 1965, Steve Sloan was not even the best quarterback on the team in those years. Sloan was a backup to Joe Namath for the majority of his time at the University of Alabama. He played mainly on defense as a sophomore, playing QB in the final game as well as the Sugar Bowl when Namath was benched by Coach Bryant. With (not yet Broadway) Joe injured the following season, Sloan led the Tide to a 10-1 national championship season. The following year with Namath departed for the NFL, Sloan helped the Tide repeat as champs, going 9-1-1 and beating Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, while throwing for over 1400 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sloan was selected in the 11th round of the 1966 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He spent two seasons in the NFL as a backup quarterback before moving into coaching.
10 Greg Mcelroy
After sitting on the bench and waiting his turn for his first two seasons at the University of Alabama, Greg McElroy took over as a junior and became one of the best Alabama quarterbacks in quite a few years. Despite Alabama being known for their running game and looking for a caretaker type guy at quarterback who won’t make mistakes and will hit a few passes when necessary, McElroy was actually known for his passing coming out of high school. He still fit the Bama mold, making good decisions, and managing the game, but he also was able to take the game over himself when necessary, including during his great fourth quarter drive in the Iron Bowl against Auburn giving the Tide a come from behind win. He then played great in the SEC Championship game, being named MVP , and helped Alabama beat the Longhorns in the national championship game that year as well. As a senior he went 10-3, passing for a hair under 3000 yards. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. He only ever played in two games in the NFL, throwing a touchdown and an interception and passing for 214 yards.
9 A.J. McCarron
The latest Alabama quarterback to make his way into the NFL is two time national champion A.J. McCarron. McCarron was one of the better drop back type QBs that played for the Tide in the past few years. He came out of high school, highly regarded for his passing, but of course being at Alabama his main responsibility was to hand the ball off to one of their fantastic backs, make some easy throws to their talented receivers, and avoid turning the ball over. McCarron did all that, but he was also talented enough that he was able to air it out from time to time and make his mark as a passer. Over his three years as a starter McCarron won back to back national championships and also set the Alabama record for career passing yards with 9019 as well as the single season record with 3063 yards. He ended up being drafted by the Bengals in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He did not play in 2014 but was Andy Dalton’s backup in 2015, playing in seven games and throwing for over 800 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions.
8 Brodie Croyle
Despite some injuries coming out of high school and a few more injury issues while at the University of Alabama, including an ACL injury that prematurely ended his third year, Brodie Croyle was one of the exciting names in the pre-Nick Saban world of Alabama football. Croyle came on strong in his redshirt freshman year, throwing for over 1000 yards as the top backup. The Tide went 4-9 in his second year as he received more playing time but was still slowed by a few injuries. After blowing out his knee in his third year he stormed back in his senior season setting the all time single season mark for passing yards with 2499 as the Tide went 10-2 finishing number eight in the country and winning the Cotton Bowl. In the 2006 NFL Draft Croyle was selected in the third round by the Kansas City Chiefs. Croyle did manage to stick around the NFL for seven years, even throwing for over 1200 yards in 2007 but mainly held clipboards until he called it a career in 2012.
7 Jeff Rutledge
As a three year starter at the University of Alabama, Jeff Rutledge led the Crimson Tide to three straight SEC Championships and made All-SEC twice. Rutledge was the starter in three straight Sugar Bowl wins, starting in 1977 when the Tide went 11-1 to finish number two in the country. He then led them to back to back national championships in his junior and senior season. They were the last national championships for coach Bear Bryant before he retired three seasons later. Rutledge was selected in the ninth round of the 1979 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He played 14 years in the NFL, mostly as a backup but did throw for over 1000 yards twice with the New York Giants in 1983 and 1987. He also made it to three Super Bowls, winning one as a backup and holder for the Washington Redskins and one as a backup for the New York Giants.
6 Harry Gilmer
Another one of those old school, play every position types, Harry Gilmer starred for the University of Alabama as a halfback, quarterback, return man, punter, and defensive back in the late 1940s. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, his best year came as a sophomore when he threw 13 touchdown passes while rushing for nine more. He also finished second in the nation with almost 1500 total yards on offense. He was the SEC Player of the Year, an All-American, and the Rose Bowl MVP that season as the Crimson Tide beat the USC Trojans. He became the first overall pick in the 1948 NFL Draft, selected by the Washington Redskins. He played six seasons in Washington before being shipped to the Detroit Lions for his final two years. He wrapped up his NFL career with over 3700 yards passing, almost 1000 yards rushing, and over 20 total touchdowns.
5 Scott Hunter
Over three seasons with the Crimson Tide, Scott Hunter threw for three feet less than 4900 yards. He played at Alabama smack dab in the middle of Bear Bryant’s illustrious coaching career, but it was somehow during the worst three year stretch Bryant ever had. As a Sophomore, Hunter helped lead the Tide to an 8-3 record. The following two years they won six games each with Hunter splitting time under center during his senior season. In the 1972 NFL Draft, Hunter was selected by the Green Bay Packers with the140th overall pick in the sixth round. He played for the Packers for three seasons, helping them reach the playoffs in his second year with a 10-4 record. He knocked around the league for seven years in total, finishing with over 4700 yards passing to go with 23 touchdowns and 38 interceptions.
4 Richard Todd
Another three year starter for the Crimson Tide was Richard Todd who played for coach Bear Bryant and led Alabama to three straight SEC Championships, three straight 11-1 seasons, and three straight losses in the Sugar Bowl, including two in a row to Notre Dame. The Tide managed to finish in the top five all three years and never lost an SEC game with Todd under center. Somehow they were even ranked number one in the final coach’s poll in 1973 despite losing their bowl game. Todd was the last Alabama quarterback to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft when the New York Jets grabbed him with the sixth overall pick in 1976. He replaced another legendary Tide quarterback who had a pretty notable career with the Jets, Joe Namath. He had two winning seasons with the Jets making it to the AFC Championship game in 1982. In 1984 he was traded to the Saints where he replaced another legendary Bama QB, Kenny Stabler. Todd played 11 seasons in the NFL throwing for over 20,000 yards with 124 touchdowns.
3 Ken Stabler
One of the most recently inducted players in the NFL Hall of Fame is Kenny “The Snake” Stabler who is known for his career with the Oakland Raiders. Stabler played for the Tide for three seasons, mostly as a backup to Steve Sloan as a sophomore, but as the starter during his junior and senior seasons. Stabler led the Bear Bryant coached team to an undefeated 11-0 season in 1966 but only finished third in the nation despite having won the past two national championships. The team fell off a little in his senior season, finishing 8-2-1 with Stabler even being kicked off the team for a short time for too much partying. Stabler was selected in the second round of the 1968 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. His career started slow but he finally broke through in 1973 which was the first of his four Pro-Bowl seasons. He also led the Raiders to a win in Super Bowl XI.
2 Joe Namath
The hero of Super Bowl III for the New York Jets, Joe Namath’s legend began in Alabama where he played three years going 29-4 as a starter. His career at Alabama was interrupted a few times by injuries and suspension for having too good of a time, but for the majority of his time there, Namath was the star quarterback, and helped the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 1964. He threw for over 2700 yards with 25 touchdowns during his college career. He was drafted by the New York Jets and was named the AFL Rookie of the Year after he took over at quarterback during the second half of the season. During his 13 year career, Namath was a two time AFL MVP, he became the first QB to throw for over 4000 yards in 1967, and of course was the MVP of Super Bowl III. Ultimately he threw for over 27000 yards and 173 touchdowns in his Hall of Fame career.
1 Bart Starr
The best Alabama quarterback to play in the NFL is also one of the best quarterbacks of all time in the NFL. Bart Starr spent four years with the Crimson Tide, but did not have a very illustrious career while he was there. As a sophomore he started at quarterback and also played safety and punted while helping Alabama to a 6-2-3 record. He barely played as a junior due to injury and as a senior, he did not get much action either. Despite his quiet career with the Tide, the Green Bay Packers were convinced to give him a shot, selecting him with the 200th overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft. Starr remained a backup for his first four seasons until Vince Lombardi took over as coach. Lombardi promoted Starr to starter during the 1959 season and he remained there for the rest of his career as the Packers became perennial championship contenders. In addition to the numerous pre-Super Bowl era NFL championships, Starr of course led the Packers to victory in Super Bowls I and II. Over his 16 year career, Starr threw 152 touchdowns while passing for over 24000 yards.
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