The Citrus Bowl, pitting, the University of Alabama football team against Michigan, will be the first day of a new decade for a program that has fond memories of the one left behind.
The decade UA leaves behind can be argued as its most successful one in program history: four national championship seasons, plus an additional championship game that was played in the first seven days of the decade, and five SEC championships. The dynasty the program formed in that time featured countless All-Americans, a Heisman Trophy winner and numerous other individual accolades.
Forming all of those players into an All-Decade Team is no easy task, but one The Tuscaloosa News sports staff tackled. The timing of the decade was problematic for some players, who had great seasons in 2008 and 2009 that cannot be counted for the decade. The bigger issue was the amount of legendary talent UA has brought through Tuscaloosa in the decade.
Even if he skips his senior season to enter the 2020 NFL Draft, Tagovailoa will leave with at least 11 school records to his name. His role in the decade’s most dramatic moment of UA football — the second-and-26 touchdown pass that won a national championship — jump-started a career that will be remembered for a generation or more.
Second team: AJ McCarron
The school’s second Heisman Trophy winner did in his 2015 season something that had never been done before at UA: a 2,000-yard season. His 2,219 yards that season earned him the sport’s highest individual honor and rare air in UA history.
Henry had to break Richardson’s single-season rushing record on the way to a Heisman Trophy. Richardson’s 21-touchdown season in 2011 made him one of just 51 FBS players to do so this decade.
Second team: Damien Harris, T.J. Yeldon
The school’s first Biletnikoff Award winner still holds the school record for single-season receptions (124) and career receptions (228), plus single-season receiving yards (1,727) and career receiving yards (3,463).
UA claims two Biletnikoff Award winners and both are on the first team. If Jeudy leaves after the Citrus Bowl, he would have climbed up to fifth in school history in career receiving yards, and his Biletnikoff season put him second in single-season history with 1,315 yards.
Second team: Calvin Ridley, DeVonta Smith
A small school product (Autauga Academy) became a legend with a 2015 postseason run that included eight catches for 267 yards and two touchdowns in two College Football Playoff games.
Second team: Irv Smith Jr.
His mauling of Notre Dame in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game — and All-SEC selection the following season — earned him a second-round draft pick, and a career worthy of the Signing Day drama that preceded it.
Second team: Cam Robinson
Warmack’s college career as a three-year starter made him widely considered the best interior lineman in the nation, a status that earned him the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Second team: Deonte Brown
The Rimington Trophy winner in 2015 and easy selection for All-American that season was the No. 18 overall draft pick in 2016 to the Indianapolis Colts, where he he is starting to this day.
Second team: Bradley Bozeman
The most decorated offensive lineman in Alabama football history in terms of trophies won: Rimington, Outland, William V. Campbell, Jacobs Blocking, numerous All-American honors and many more. A starter on three national championship teams and did so at different positions, too.
Second team: Ross Pierschbacher
A three-year starter in a three-year career, before being selected No. 11 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Second team: DJ Fluker
The only player from the decade to crack UA’s top five in school history for career tackles for a loss, with his 45 finishing fourth. He ended his career with multiple All-SEC selections and as the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award.
He ended a decorated UA career on top as the defensive MVP of the final two games he played: the Sugar Bowl as a College Football Playoff Semifinal and the national championship game win that followed. He was also widely named an All-American before being selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Second team: Da’shawn Hand, Marcell Dareus
One breakout season — 18 1/2 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and 12 quarterback hurries — was enough to take him from relative unknown to top five draft pick, and the best of the decade at his position. He became the fourth UA player of the decade to be taken in the top 5 picks of a NFL Draft.
A consistent presence around ball carriers in his two seasons at UA after junior college. He was a top six tackler on both UA teams he played on despite the attention paid to him as a standout interior defensive lineman.
Second team: A’Shawn Robinson, Jesse Williams
His 2008 season and partial 2009 season were notable, but his 2010 and 2011 seasons were good enough that just his partial body of work was enough for this honor. In the seemingly impossible role of replacing Rolando McClain’s impact on a defense, he was a primary leader of the 2011 defense that is still considered one of the best units in college football history.
He took the long route to success at UA, biding his time, but as a redshirt senior his 18 1/2 tackles for a loss made the top 10 in UA history. His 39 1/2 tackles for a loss in his career are tied for seventh.
Second team: Tim Williams, Rashaan Evans
On the subject of people forced to fill the shoes of Rolando McClain, Mosley was the first to bring the Butkus Award back to UA (in 2013) since McClain did it in 2009. Mosley was a freshman All-American in 2010 and twice in All-American in 2012 and 2013.
Another UA linebacker to live up to the high bar set by his predecessors, Butkus Award winners and All-Americans. He did both in his time at UA, and his 115 tackles in 2016 cracked the top 10 in UA history for a single season.
Second team: Reggie Ragland, Shaun Dion Hamilton
Humphrey’s two seasons on the field at UA were enough to make him a first-round draft choice, making a father-son combo good enough for the Alabama football history books.
The converted wide receiver showed those balls skills as a punt returner and as a defensive back. He won the defensive MVP award in the Cotton Bowl win over Michigan State for showing both: a punt return touchdown and an interception that preserved the shutout.
Second team: Dee Milliner, Dre Kirkpatrick
He returned an interception for a touchdown in his first career start and never stopped making plays, ultimately becoming an All-American the following year in 2013.
He is one of just two UA players to amass more than 100 interception return yards in a game, the only one to return more than one for a touchdown in the same game and the only one to return more than three in his career. He is also one of the more impact defensive backs of the Nick Saban era, given his ability to move around the secondary as team needs demanded.
Second team: Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
His 11-for-11 season is 2012 is the best UA place-kicking season of the decade and his 21-for-27 the year before is second-best. (His 77.8 percent that season is identical to Joseph Bulovas’ 2018, but Shelley did it with more workload, as Bulovas went 14-for-18.)
Second team: Adam Griffith
A career that baffling does not include a Ray Guy Trophy did include serious consideration for it all four years, in addition to taking on kickoff duties later in his carer and being mentioned as a possible fix for UA’s place-kicking woes. He led the nation in average punting distance as a freshman and was top five as a junior.
Second team: Cody Mandell
Waddle’s numbers are threatening those of Javier Arenas, the clear choice for the returner of the previous decade.
Second team: Christion Jones
The same skill he showed in college kept him in the NFL for six years, far longer than the typical long snapper career. His story from the the April 27, 2011 tornadoes transcended the position and made him a household name within the UA community.
Second team: Cole Mazza