Aug. 13, 2009
CANTON, Ohio - It's hard not to get lost in the past when visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The two-story, 6,000-square foot complex is nestled in a small neighborhood just off Interstate 77 and covers the entire history of professional football.
It's also hard not to notice the presence the Alabama Crimson Tide football program has in this facility.
Alabama is steeped in football tradition - from 12 national championships to 21 Southeastern Conference championships to 92 first teams All Americans to an NCAA-best 51 bowl appearances. That tradition carries over into professional football as well.
The Crimson Tide has seven Hall of Famers, the third highest total among the college football programs. The elite list includes Don Hutson (1963), Bart Starr (1977), Joe Namath (1985), John Hannah (1990), Dwight Stephenson (1998), Ozzie Newsome (1999) and most recently Derrick Thomas (2009).
Five former Alabama players have had their jerseys retired in the NFL, including Hutson (Green Bay), Starr (Green Bay), Namath (New York Jets), Hannah (New England Patriots) and Thomas (Kansas City).
Five former Alabama quarterbacks have won Super Bowls and two - Starr (Super Bowl I and II) and Namath (Super Bowl III) - were named Super Bowl MVPs.
Hutson, the first Crimson Tide great to go into the Hall of Fame, was part of the inaugural class in 1963. He was the first star wide receiver in National Football League history and is credited with creating many of the modern pass routes used in the NFL today. He was the dominant receiver of his day and is widely considered to be one of the greatest in NFL history, holding almost all important receiving records at the time of his retirement.
Hutson made his NFL debut in 1935 and made $175 per game, a high salary for a rookie. To prove his worth, he caught an 80-yard TD pass on his first play from scrimmage in the NFL. His 99 career touchdowns stood as an NFL record for more than 40 years.
Starr went in to the Hall of Fame in 1977. The two-time Super Bowl MVP was the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers during the storied franchise's heyday.
Namath was enshrined in 1985 after a stellar career in the AFL and NFL. As the starting quarterback for the New York Jets, Namath guaranteed a win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and then delivered a 16-7 win in the last Super Bowl before the merger of the two leagues.
Hannah took his place in the Hall of Fame in 1989 and was perhaps the game's most dominating offensive lineman during his career in New England.
Stephenson became the fifth former UA player to reach the Hall of Fame in 1998. One of the greatest centers to ever play the game, Stephenson enjoyed a stellar 0-year career with the Miami Dolphins.
Newsome took his place the following year in 1999. The "Wizard of Oz" is highly regarded as the game's greatest tight end of all time. As a member of the Cleveland Browns he caught a pass in an NFL record 124 consecutive games.
Thomas is the latest former UA player to take his place in Canton. The "Sackman" was the heart and soul of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1990s. The 1989 NFL Rookie of the Year, he played in nine Pro Bowls and was named the NFL Man of the Year during his 10 years in the league.
The Hall of Fame complex is covered with artifacts that depict this great game, from jerseys to footballs to videos of that captures the history of the game. All the memorabilia one could ever hope to see captures the NFL from its inception to present day football.
And among all the museum's history, there are seven men honored as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and they all hail from Alabama, the Crimson Tide.