By Christopher Walsh
Fifth of 10 Parts
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Before Nick Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007, the Crimson Tide’s individual honors on a national level were few and far between.
No one had won a Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award or Walter Camp Award for player of the year, nor a Chuck Bendarik or Bronko Naguski trophy for defensive player of the year.
Of the 25 major college football awards that ESPN.com lists on its awards page, an Alabama player had won five:
Now the reverse is true. There are only five awards an Alabama player has never won: Davey O’Brien (quarterback), John Mackey (tight end), Lou Groza (kicker), Ray Guy (punter) and Paul Hornung (most versatile). The Hornung Award has only been around since 2010.
Alabama has won so many trophies during the last decade that the display cases on the second floor of the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility have seemingly been in a constant state of expansion.
- Heisman Trophy (outstanding player): Mark Ingram Jr. (2009), Derrick Henry (2015)
- Maxwell Award (outstanding player): AJ McCarron (2013), Derrick Henry (2015)
- Walker Camp Award (player of the year): Derrick Henry (2015)
- Doak Walker Award (running back): Trent Richardson (2011); Derrick Henry (2015)
- Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (outstanding senior quarterback): AJ McCarron (2013)
- Fred Biletnikoff Award (receiver): Amari Cooper (2014)
- Outland Trophy (interior lineman): Andre Smith (2008); Barrett Jones (2011), Cam Robinson (2016)
- Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year): Jonathan Allen (2016)
- Bronko Nagurski Award (defensive player of the year): Jonathan Allen (2016)
- Dick Butkus Award (linebacker): Rolando McClain (2009), C.J. Mosley (2013), Reuben Foster (2016)
- Rotary Lombardi Award (lineman): Jonathan Allen (2016)
- Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end): Jonathan Allen (2016)
- Rimington Trophy (center): Barrett Jones (2012), Ryan Kelly (2015)
- Campbell Trophy (top scholar-athlete): Barrett Jones (2012)
- Wuerffel Trophy (community service): Barrett Jones (2011)
Add the Joe Moore Award for best offensive line in 2015 and one could take all of the trophies and play a game of checkers on a very, very large board (especially since the Moore weighs approximately 350 pounds).
Throw in some major coaching honors and the Disney Spirit Award for overcoming adversity following the 2011 tornado and you’d have enough pieces to play chess.
That’s unparalleled in college football history.
So is the diversity of the awards as Alabama isn’t just known for one or two position groups. That’s why the Running Back U moniker doesn’t fit. Everything U would be more appropriate.
Nevertheless, two awards stand out during Saban’s tenure: the Outland Trophy and the Dick Butkus Award. Three Crimson Tide players have won each over the last decade.
“It was fun,” left tackle Cam Robinson said about joining such an exclusive club last season. “That was my first time doing anything kind of like that. When it comes to the Outland, that was tremendous.
“I didn’t know if I would win it or not. I couldn’t put it into words, but I wasn’t surprised. It was a great honor, it was shocking, it was hard to fathom … it’s hard to put into words.”
Excellence at linebacker has become a Crimson Tide trademark. In six of the last eight seasons, Alabama has had a consensus All-American at the position (four unanimous), easily topping the nation.
Alabama also boasts Thomas, Bennett, Lee Roy Jordan and Woodrow Lowe in the College Football Hall of Fame, a foursome that can stand with any program’s heritage at linebacker
“It was an honor to win that award,” said 2016 Butkus recipient Foster. “That’s Dick Butkus, like a hard hitter — or a hard-head knocker.”
Allen became the third player under Saban to win so much hardware that he couldn’t hold all the trophies at once, joining offensive lineman Barrett Jones and running back Derrick Henry.
In addition to the Bednarik and Nagurski Trophy honors, Allen also snared the Ted Hendricks Award as the game’s best defensive end, and the Rotary Lombardi Award as best lineman.
“He has a lot of great attributes as a player,” Saban said about Allen when he got Heisman buzz despite being a defensive player. “I think he would be a great candidate for it.”
Going back to those 25 major awards, Alabama’s coaches won only two. Kirby Smart was honored with the Frank Broyles Award in 2009 as the game’s best assistant coach, and Saban landed the Home Depot Coach of the Year honor in 2008.
The only coach of the year award Saban has won during a national championship season at Alabama was the Bobby Bowden Award, which has since been discontinued.