Alabama SI Cover Tournament: Who's Really No. 1? vs. John Hannah

Christopher Walsh

We're going old-school with this matchup. 

With a spot in the Sweet 16 in the Alabama SI Cover Tournament, it's the dual entry about whether Alabama should be No. 1 going up against legendary NFL writer Paul Zimmerman's claim in 1981 that John Hannah was already the best offensive lineman to ever play the game. 

He made a good case, too. 

The dual entry is from 1973, "Alabama is the Best — For Now" when the Crimson Tide ended up losing its high-profile showdown with Notre Dame (but had already been voted No. 1 in the coaches' poll), and the five-team split cover "Who's Really No. 1?" in 1979 when Alabama went on to win the national title.  

BamaCentral is in the midst a 48-field bracket to determine both the best Alabama Sports Illustrated cover, and a top-25 list. 

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 13: Who's Really No. 1? vs. The Best Offensive Lineman of All Time

Alabama Is The Best, For Now/Who's Really No. 1?

Sports Illustrated cover Dec. 3, 1973, Bear Bryant; Alabama is the best, for now

Story headline: Bama Takes Charge

Subhead: The Crimson Tide has moved ahead in the race for the national championship, thanks to the Ohio State-Michigan tie, but one false step and Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Penn State are poised to pounce

Excerpt: When Bear Bryant brought the Crimson Tide to Baton Rouge last week, the mist had not settled on the bayous before he and LSU's Charlie McClendon were bragging on one another again. It is a gracious Southern ritual that has been going on since McClendon, who is not only a fellow traveler from Arkansas but played and coached under Bryant, took over LSU in 1962.

According to the script, Bryant puts on his most venerable face and then will say as he did last week, "Cholly Mac and I are good friends, as everyone knows, and I hope he'll be kind to his old coach." Then, after Bryant's boys waylay McClendon's, as they have done seven times in nine meetings, Cholly Mac will drawl, "Somehow, I don't think Bear taught me all he knows."

There were hints of that last week when Bryant rightly prophesied that "mistakes will decide this game." ABC made the first one when it scheduled the game for prime time only to find that it would be bucking heads with NBC's offering of My Fair Lady. So, pulling strings again, ABC rescheduled the kickoff for the odd hour of 5:35 p.m. "As cute as Bear Bryant is," said one ABC operative, "he can't match Audrey Hepburn."

Sports Illustrated cover, Nov. 12, 1979, Steadman Shealy

Bonus cover: There's a Red Alert

By Douglas S. Looney: In the debate over who's on top—Alabama, Nebraska, USC, Ohio State, Houston or Florida State—one point is clear: No. 1 wears red.

The Best Offensive Lineman of All Time

Sports Illustrated cover, August 3, 1981, John Hannah

Story headline: John Hannah Doesn't Fiddle Around

Subhead: At least not on the football field, where, says the author, his brains, brawn and speed have made him the top offensive lineman in NFL history

Excerpt (by Paul Zimmerman): It starts with the firepower, with Hannah's legs, incredibly massive chunks of concrete. "Once we measured John's thighs, and they were 33 inches," says Hannah's wife, Page, a slim ash blonde. "I said, 'I can't bear it. They're bigger than my bust.' "

The ability to explode into an opponent and drive him five yards back was what first attracted the college recruiters to Albertville, Ala., where Hannah grew up and played his final year of high school ball. It's the first thing you look for, if you're building a running game. Hannah says he always had that ability, but it was his first coach at Baylor School for Boys in Chattanooga, a tough, wiry, prematurely gray World War II veteran named Major Luke Worsham, who taught him how to zero in on a target, to aim for the numbers with his helmet, to keep his eyes open and his tail low. Next came the quick feet. Forget about pass blocking if you can't dance. Worsham helped there, too.

"Oddly enough," Hannah says, "he helped me develop agility and reactions by putting me on defense in a four-on-one drill. You'd work against a whole side of an offensive line. It was the most terrible thing in the world. If the guard blocked down you knew you'd better close the gap and lower your shoulder. If the end came down and the guard came out, buddy, you grabbed dirt because you knew a trap was coming."

"For all his size and explosiveness and straight-ahead speed," Kilroy says, "John has something none of the others ever had, and that's phenomenal, repeat, phenomenal lateral agility and balance, the same as defensive backs. You'll watch his man stunt around the opposite end, and John will just stay with him. He'll slide along like a toe dancer, a tippy-toe. And that's a 270-pound man doing that, a guy capable of positively annihilating an opponent playing him straight up."

Result

Who’s really No. 1?/Bama is Best for now def. John Hannah, 52.1-47.9 percent  

Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Joey Blackwell
Joey Blackwell

Editor

John Hannah. What a legend. It was an honor speaking to him earlier this year. Such a class act.


All Things Bama

FEATURED
COMMUNITY