At Alabama, they simply know it as "The Catch."
It was Sept. 10, 2005, and the Crimson Tide was struggling at home against Southern Miss, a team it frequently dominated but was playing its first game of the season after the opener against Tulane had to be rescheduled due to Hurricane Katrina.
Down 21-10 late in the second quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and the running game all but non-existent, the Crimson Tide was facing fourth down and 12 yards to go when it decided to go for broke and throw deep, figuring an interception would probably be no worse than a punt.
Instead, wide receiver Tyrone Prothro arguably made the greatest catch in program history, maybe college football history, and, as the announcers correctly described it, the catch of the year.
Words cannot accurately describe the play (and thankfully we can include video), but here’s a valiant effort:
After quarterback Brodie Croyle uncorked the long ball down the middle of the field, Prothro was racing toward it and the end zone along with junior defensive back Jasper Faulk, who had near-perfect coverage. Even though Jasper was in Prothro’s face, the receiver somehow reached around both sides of the defensive back with his arms and managed to catch the ball.
As the two tumbled rolled head-over-heels into the end zone, Prothro still kept his grip on the ball with both hands, even though his right arm was also wrapped around Faulk’s head, and his left arm was reaching around the defender’s right arm and shoulder.
It was initially ruled a touchdown, but the play was reviewed by the instant replay official, who correctly confirmed that it was a catch, and that Prothro was down short of the end zone.
Croyle quickly swung a pass to fullback Le’Ron McClain for the touchdown and from then on it was all Alabama, which pulled out a 30-21 victory.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever caught a ball like that,” said Prothro, who had seven receptions in the game for 134 yards and 279 all-purpose yards, which at the time was the sixth-best single-game performance in school history. “It was real big for us. Going on a drive, on their side, it’s fourth down, we had to make a play.”
What became know as “The Catch” on the Capstone, was named both the Pontiac Game-Changing Performance of the Year,” which snagged Alabama $100,000 for its scholarship fund, and also an ESPY award for play of the year.
Prothro edged out Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Aaron Rowand’s dramatic catch while slamming into the wall (FYI, the previous month he told team officials “I want some padding on that fence because I’m going to run into it,” but it had yet to be installed. Rowand broke his nose), Nathan Vasher of the Chicago Bears returning a missed field goal for a touchdown against San Francisco, New York Mets infielder David Wright’s over-the-shoulder bare-handed catch, and Reggie Bush’s touchdown for Southern California against Washington.
However, many Crimson Tide fans became even more emotional when they saw Prothro, one of the most beloved and exciting players in Alabama history, limp up to the stage months after sustaining a horrific multiple-leg fracture against Florida. After spending weeks in the hospital due to complications, including his leg becoming infected following surgery, it was the first time most people had seen Prothro since being carted off the field Oct. 1.
It ended his career.
Prothro kept his acceptance speech short: “This says a lot. I just want to thank God, my family, my coaches and my teammates, my pastor, and last but not least, the fans. Thank you.”
Some of this post originated from "100 Things Crimson tide Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die," published by Triumph Books