Alabama SI Cover Tournament: Bart Starr vs. Johnny Musso

Christopher Walsh

It's another old-school matchup in the Alabama SI Cover Tournament, featuring two of the Crimson Tide's most popular players and all-time legends.

It's Bart Starr, leading the 1966 Green Bay Packers to a league championship, and securing a spot in the first game that would become known as the Super Bowl, facing Johnny Musso's gutsy performance against Auburn in the 1971 Iron Bowl. 

The running back's big toe was so damaged that he could barely walk on it, and 12 of Alabama's others starters were dealing with injuries as well. 

But, to quote the subsequent story: 

"Bryant's defenders come on like a bunch of zoology students turned loose on a sack of frogs. They don't want to tackle you; they want to open you up and see what's inside. And when they got through operating on Auburn's potent offense they had won 31-7, and the Orange Bowl had itself a matchup that makes Thermopylae look like a beanbag contest."

BamaCentral is holding a 48-field single-elimination tournament to determine the best Alabama Sports Illustrated cover.

Vote on Twitter (@BamaCentral) or Facebook (@AlabamaonSI). The voting goes 24 hours for each matchup and the result added to the original post on BamaCentral.

Second round

All Things Bama Regional

Game 30: The Champs (Bart Starr) vs. Johnny Musso Attacks Auburn 

The Champs (Bart Starr)

Sports Illustrated cover, Bart Starr, Jan. 9, 1967

Story headline: Green Bay Rolls High

Subhead: Cowboy Don Meredith harassed the Packers' defense all day, but a rambling, gambling Bart Starr passed Green Bay to another NFL championship and into the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs

Excerpt (by Tex Maule): Where Landry used an understated approach in order to settle the nerves of his young Cowboys, Lombardi did just the opposite in order to nettle his veterans into the ferocity he expects from his teams.

He snapped and snarled at them all week long. The last note of levity came in Green Bay just before the departure for Tulsa, when Paul Hornung (who was to spend the entire game Sunday on the bench) broke up the team with a story about Lombardi that reflects the respect and awe with which his players regard him. According to Hornung, when the team returned to Green Bay at 2 o'clock in the morning after their season-ending Los Angeles victory, Lombardi was delayed for an hour or so at the airport in zero weather, signing autographs and talking to well-wishers. By the time he got home he was almost frozen. When he finally got into bed his wife, Marie, shivered and said, "God, your feet are cold." Said Lombardi, sleepily, "In bed you may call me Vincent, dear."

Lombardi laughed as hard as the players at the joke, but once the team arrived at the Camelot Inn in Tulsa he worked them mercilessly.

Fuzzy Thurston, the fine Green Bay guard, said in his oratorical style, "This game will prove for all time, for all history, the greatness of my teammates. This is the big one for all of us. There are players on this team who are near retirement, and none of us wants to retire with a bad taste in his mouth. As the great Johnny Blood once said, 'We professional athletes are very lucky. Unlike most mortals, we are given the privilege of dying twice—once when we retire and again when death takes us.' " Now Thurston, a blocky, square, very tough-looking man, lowered his voice to a sentimental organ tone. "I would like to die happy," he said.

Alabama Challenges Nebraska For No. 1 

Johnny Musso cover of Sports Illustrated, Dec. 6, 1971

Story headline: Alabama Poses Another Threat 

Subhead: Johnny Musso Attacks Auburn 

Excerpt (by Pat Putnam): The pattern of the game was set early, to Bryant's delight and Jordan's dismay, and it never varied. When Auburn had the ball it was harassed badly. When Alabama had it, it kept it. And kept it. And kept it. Auburn had possession just 18 minutes and 11 seconds, lost one fumble and had two of Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan's passes stolen, and managed but 179 yards. Before Alabama, the Tigers thought they were having an off day if they didn't gain more than that in one quarter. "One thing we have to do," Bryant had said, "is control the ball." Control it? Alabama owned it; owned it for a fantastic 41 minutes and 49 seconds, and most of the time it was hurtling through the Auburn defenses in the arms of Johnny Musso (see cover), who was running on a disjointed big left toe that would have put a lot of other running backs on crutches.

Three weeks ago, against LSU, Musso's big toe was wrenched from its socket, and from then until he started against Auburn the best the 196-pound All-America senior halfback could manage was a half-speed limp in tennis shoes. And he couldn't even do that until three days before the game. When Alabama went through its final light workout on Friday, Musso watched from the sidelines in street clothes. In nine games he had scored 14 touchdowns and gained 921 yards. With that toe, he didn't figure to gain 921 inches against Auburn's band.

"Don't worry," said the handsome 21-year-old. "I'll play. I've got this gadget Trainer Jim Goostree rigged up for me." And he held up a red plastic cast that had been molded to fit his foot. "I'll just tape it on and away I'll go. Auburn has this banner out that says: STOP THE WOP. I've got one hanging over my bed." He smiled thinly. "I'm going to be there to give them a chance."


Johnny Musso def. Bart Starr, 76.7-23.2 percent  

Comments (2)
No. 1-2
Tyler  Martin
Tyler Martin


Johnny Musso. I can not vote for Starr given that he is torching my Cowboys on the cover.

Anthony Sisco
Anthony Sisco


Musso is one of my favorite all time Alabama players