Crimson Tide Top 5: Defensive Backs

Throughout the month of June, Bama Central writers will pick the best five players in each Alabama sport, and for each position group in football.
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While several schools over the last decade have tried to make the claim that they should be nicknamed 'DBU,' when examining the history of Alabama football — both recent and in years past — the Crimson Tide makes one of the strongest cases for that highly-coveted title.

Nick Saban has had many stellar defensive backs come through Tuscaloosa during his time, including fan favorites like Javier Arenas, Rashad Johnson, Kareem Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dee Milliner, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Patrick Surtain II among others.

This list isn't just limited to defensive backs during the Saban era, though.

No, going back further than 2007, Alabama has always had a rich history of defensive backs. Names like Bobby Johns and George Teague are just a drop in the ocean of fantastic players throughout the years.

However, despite their legendary status among the Crimson Tide faithful, both are limited to just honorable mentions in today's edition of the Crimson Tide Top 5.

Without further ado, here's BamaCentral's list of the top 5 defensive backs in Crimson Tide history:

5] Tommy Wilcox

Playing under coach Paul 'Bear' Bryant from 1979-1982, Tommy Wilcox combined with his teammates to form one tough defensive backfield for the rest of college football.

In 1979, Wilcox started at safety under Bryant, where he was named the SEC Freshman of the Year. For his sophomore and junior seasons, Wilcox was once again recognized by the conference, this time as a First Team All-SEC selection. He finished his career with nine total interceptions.

Despite being a consensus All-American in 1981, Wilcox went undrafted during the 1982 NFL Draft. He did, however, get picked up by the Arizona Wranglers of the USFL during the 1983 Territorial Draft. A starter during his first season, Wilcox then played for the Chicago Blitz in 1984 before he suffered a career-ending neck injury.

Today, Wilcox is the host of his hunting and fishing television show titled 'Tommy Wilcox Outdoors,' where he features sports stars as guests.

4] Jeremiah Castille

Playing from 1979-1982, Jeremiah Castille was a cornerstone for some excellent Alabama defenses.

Castille was named All-American in 1982 while playing on the last defense coached by Bryant. Over the course of his four seasons, Castille tied the record for career interceptions with 16 — seven of those coming in 1982 alone.

Castille was also named the 1982 Liberty Bowl MVP after he intercepted three passes in Alabama's 21-15 victory over Illinois.

Following his career at Alabama, Castille was taken in the third round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In total, Castille played six seasons in the NFL between the Buccaneers and the Denver Broncos.

3] Minkah Fitzpatrick

When it comes to Crimson Tide defensive backs from the last decade, nobody did it better than Minkah Fitzpatrick.

From 2015 to 2017, teams of college football grew to fear Fitzpatrick. Over those three seasons, he accounted for 171 total tackles — with 16.5 of those being for a loss — and five sacks. He also recorded nine interceptions and returned four for touchdowns while defending 24 passes.

The Crimson Tide won two national titles during his time in Tuscaloosa, but Fitzpatrick also earned many personal accolades. In 2016 and 2017, he was named a consensus All-American and won both the Chuck Bednarik Award and Jim Thorpe Award in 2017.

In the 2018 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Fitzpatrick as the 11th overall pick. Between his two seasons in Miami and two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he has been named First Team All-Pro twice.

2] Antonio Langham

Antonio Langham (1990-93) is remembered as one of the most talented defensive players in Alabama football history.

As a sophomore, Langham recorded a pick-six late in the inaugural SEC Championship Game against Florida that would ultimately be the deciding score and boost the Crimson Tide to the national title game against Miami.

As a junior, Langham earned consensus All-American honors as well as winning the Jim Thorpe Award and the Jack Tatum Trophy. Langham finished his career as the Crimson Tide's all-time interceptions leader with 19.

In the 1994 NFL Draft, Langham was selected as the No. 9 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns. He ultimately played seven seasons in the NFL split between five teams before retiring with the New England Patriots in 2000.

1] Mark Barron

In the Crimson Tide's rich history of defensive backs, few made as much of an impact during their time as Mark Barron did from 2008 through 2011.

In three of his four years at Alabama, Barron earned All-SEC recognition and was a consensus All-American in both his junior and senior seasons. He finished his Alabama career with 235 tackles — 13 for a loss — along with 12 interceptions. 

With five sacks also recorded, Barron proved that he was a devastating force all over the field.

Barron was taken No. 7 in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he played for two full seasons before he was traded in 2014 to the then-St. Louis Rams. After five seasons, he departed the Rams and played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019. He then spent the 2020 season with the Denver Broncos but is currently a free agent.

The Crimson Tide Top 5 will appear every day during the month of June on BamaCentral.

Crimson Tide Top 5: Introduction

Linebackers

Softball

Tight Ends

Women's Basketball

Specialists

Women's Golf

Offensive Line

Men's Golf

Quarterbacks

Baseball

Defensive Linemen

Women's Tennis

Men's Swimming

Wide Receivers

Women's Swimming

Nick Saban Assistant Coaches

Running Backs

Women's Track and Field, Cross Country

Men's Tennis

Coaches

Soccer

Men's Basketball

Gymnastics