Who is the best? Throughout the month of June, Bama Central has tried to answer that question. The top five athletes from every Alabama sport, including the top five position group players in football, were chosen. Coaches were thrown into the mix as well.
It’s been difficult for sure. Now we come to the conclusion of this series with the Crimson Tide Top 5 Athletes. We’re looking for the best-of-the-best, the top athletes that embodied greatness during their storied careers at Alabama.
There were nine top selections in the football categories for the Crimson Tide Top 5, and 15 athletes at No. 1 in the other Crimson Tide sports.
To recap the top regular sports picks:
Kelly Kretschman (softball), Dave Magadan (baseball), Dominique Canty (women’s basketball), Robert Horry (men’s basketball), Stephanie Meadow (women’s golf), Jerry Pate (men’s golf), Krystal Rivers (volleyball), Ashley Miles (gymnastics), Celia Jimenez Delgado (soccer), Alexa Guarachi (women’s tennis), Gregg Hahn (men’s tennis), Lillie Leatherwood (women’s track), Kirani James (men’s track), Lane Bassham (women’s swimming), and Vladislav Polyakov (men’s swimming).
For football it was Jonathan Allen (defensive line), Derrick Thomas (linebacker), Mark Barron (defensive back), JK Scott (specialists), John Hannah (offensive line), Ozzie Newsome (tight end), Tua Tagovailoa (quarterback), Derrick Henry (running back) and DeVonta Smith (receiver).
So, who are you picking?
Here’s Bama Central’s Crimson Tide Top 5 list:
5. Dave Magadan (baseball)
He did it all for Alabama in 1983 and in his college career. Magadan helped the Crimson Tide to a runner-up finish at the College World Series and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team.
He earned college baseball’s top honor, the Golden Spikes Award, in that 1983 season, and was named the 1983 College “Player of the Year” by Baseball America. He led the Crimson Tide with an astonishing .525 average, hits (114), doubles (31), total bases (180) and slugging percentage (.829).
Magadan concluded the 1983 season with numerous school career records (at-bats, runs, hits, RBIs, doubles, total bases and batting average).
Magadan still holds Alabama records for single-season batting average (.525, 1983), career batting average (.439, 1981-83), single-season hits (114, 1983), single-season doubles (31, 1983) and single-season RBIs (95, 1983).
4. Derrick Henry (running back, football)
He is Alabama’s second all-time leading rusher with 3,591 yards and tied for second with 41 career rushing touchdowns.
In 2015, Alabama turned to Henry to lead the way. He was given the ball a school-record 395 times, which led to a couple of NCAA single-season bests - rushing yards (2,219) and touchdowns (28).
Henry capped off the 2015 season with a Heisman Trophy and a national title. In the championship game against Clemson, Henry rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns, including one for 50 yards.
He punctuated his Heisman season with a 271-yard effort in a win against Auburn. Henry had four 200-plus yard games in his career. His 16 games with 100 or more yards is another school record.
3. Kelly Kretschman (softball)
She ranks No. 1 at Alabama in games started (273), at-bats (842), runs (288), hits (368), doubles (65), triples (16), and until this season she was the career home run leader with 61.
For single-season marks, she leads UA in runs (94), hits (102), doubles (22) and total bases (211).
Kretschman was the first Alabama superstar and led the program to its first Women’s College World Series appearance and a two-time, first-team All-American and two-time second-team All-American.
Away from Alabama, Kretschman was an Olympic gold medalist (2004) and silver medalist (2008) for the US softball team.
2. Lillie Leatherwood (women’s track and field)
Lillie Leatherwood was a three-time NCAA champion in the 400 meters at Alabama, and a 10-time All-American from 1984-87. Born in Tuscaloosa, she was also an eight-time SEC event champion, including three event wins at the 1987 SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships (200 meters, 400 meters, 4x100-meter relay). She was the 1987 SEC Female Athlete of the Year.
In 1984, she became Alabama’s first female Olympic gold medalist as a member of the United States’ 4x400-meter relay team at the Los Angeles Games. Leatherwood was also a member of the U.S. track squad at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea where she won silver in the 4x400 relay.
Leatherwood's school records in the 200 meters and 400 meters have stood since 1987.
1. Derrick Thomas (linebacker, football)
No matter what plan opposing coaches came up with to stop the guy, there was no stopping Derrick Thomas.
As much as he frustrated other coaches, quarterbacks feared him. Twenty-seven times in 1988 Thomas sacked the quarterback, a national record that should stand for a long time.
The season before, Thomas had 18 sacks and finished his Alabama career with 52, to go with 68 tackles for a loss and five blocked kicks.
In 1988 he was a unanimous All-American, Alabama’s first Butkus Award winner, and was the fourth-overall selection in the 1989 NFL Draft. He led the league in sacks his rookie season (20) and was Defensive Player of the Year.
Thomas, who died in 2000 at the age of 33, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.