The Alabama Crimson Tide program is arguably the greatest in the long and storied history of college football and certainly has the resume to back that up. The university claims 17 national championships, although that number has often been debated given how national champions were crowned back in the day. But no matter how it’s broken down, Alabama is right there near the top of any national title list and certainly has the most championships in the modern era. The Crimson Tide have had some of the most legendary players and coaches in history on the sidelines in Tuscaloosa, which is why it’s so surprising that it took 108 seasons before the school produced a Heisman Trophy winner.
It’s true. The Alabama Crimson Tide football program officially had its first season in 1892 and didn’t have a Heisman Trophy winner until 2009 when Mark Ingram won the closest vote in history. Up to that point, no Crimson Tide player had finished higher than third in the voting and only eight players had finished in the top five (a total of nine occasions as Harry Gilmer had two top-five finishes).
Derrick Henry became the school’s second Heisman winner in 2015 and there’s a strong chance the Crimson Tide get a third winner in 2020 with both quarterback Mac Jones and wideout Devonta Smith in the running.
Mark Ingram was the first Heisman Trophy winner in Alabama Crimson Tide history in 2009
Following a stellar career high school career in Michigan, Mark Ingram II joined the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2008 and had a stellar freshman season. Despite being the backup running back to Glen Coffee, Ingram scored a team-high 12 touchdowns, a school record for a freshman, and rushed for 728 yards on 143 carries.
With Coffee gone to the NFL, Ingram took over the starting role as a sophomore in 2009 and certainly made the most of the opportunity. He helped Alabama to an undefeated regular season and a second straight SEC title, rushing for 1,536 yards and 15 touchdowns, also adding three receiving touchdowns. In the closest Heisman Trophy vote in history, Ingram became the first player from Alabama to win the coveted award as he just beat out Stanford senior running back Toby Gerhart by 28 points.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy came in third in the Heisman Trophy vote and he and the Longhorns matched up with the Crimson Tide in the national title game. Once again, Ingram came out on top as Alabama completed their undefeated season with a 37-21 victory. Ingram rushed for 122 yards and scored two touchdowns on the way to being named the game’s Offensive MVP.
Mark Ingram closed out his career with the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2010 with 875 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns and then skipped his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
Derrick Henry took home the award in 2015
After originally committing to the University of Georgia ahead of his All-American senior season at Yulee (FL) High School in 2012, a year in which he was named Florida’s Mr. Football, Derrick Henry changed course and signed to play with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
As a true freshman in 2013, Henry was the team’s third-string running back behind T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake and rushed for 382 yards and three touchdowns, also adding a receiving touchdown. In 2014, he split time in the backfield with Yeldon, running for 990 yards with 13 total touchdowns.
Henry finally became the starter as a junior in 2015 and had one of the greatest seasons in college football history. He set single-season school records for rushing attempts (395), rushing yards (2,219), rushing touchdowns (28), and became Alabama’s all-time leading rusher in the process, passing Shaun Alexander.
Henry won the Heisman Trophy in December, beating out the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Deshaun Watson, and Baker Mayfield, and then helped Alabama defeat Clemson in the national championship game, rushing for 158 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-40 victory. Like Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry left the Crimson Tide after his junior season to enter the NFL draft.
Alabama Crimson Tide QB Mac Jones and WR Devonta Smith both have a shot at the Heisman Trophy in 2020
The Alabama Crimson Tide certainly have a great shot at a third Heisman Trophy winner in 2020. Quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver Devonta Smith are both having solid campaigns in what is easily the craziest season in college football history.
Heading into Alabama’s SEC title game against the Florida Gators, who have a Heisman Trophy candidate of their own in quarterback Kyle Trask, Mac Jones has thrown for 3,321 yards and 27 touchdowns against just three interceptions in 10 games. In those same 10 games, wideout Devonta Smith has caught 83 passes for 1,327 yards and 15 touchdowns.
This season’s Heisman Trophy ceremony will be done virtually from the ESPN studios on Saturday, January 5, 2021.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference