We’re reaching the halfway point of the first round of our quest to determine the greatest Alabama Crimson Tide football player of all time, and your votes have been impressive. You’ve chosen players in terms of their skill and impact on the game, as opposed to their name recognition and popularity, and for that we salute you.
Take a look at today’s matchup, as well as whom the winner will face, and cast your ballot. The poll will be up over the weekend, so tell someone else to vote as well.
Saban Division – Running Backs vs. Linebackers
Johnny Musso (1969-1971)
Running Back – Birmingham, AL.
6’0”, 205 lbs
Career Statistics: 2741 Rushing Yards, 34 TDs
Johnny Musso, also known as the “Italian Stallion”, was one of the best running backs of his period, and one of the best in Alabama history as well. He led the Southeastern Conference in rushing in 1970 and 1971, gaining 1,137 and 1,088 yards, respectively. Musso currently is ranked sixthall-time in rushing yards and fourthin rushing touchdowns for Alabama.
Musso was named First Team All-America as a junior in 1970, and was a Consensus All-American his senior year in 1971. He was awarded the American Football Coaches Association Ernie Davis Award in 1972. He also finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 1971. Musso won the Player of the Year Award from Football News, the Touchdown Club of Atlanta, and the Miami Touchdown Club.
Johnny was named Academic All-Conference three times, and was honored as a National Football Foundation National Scholar Athlete. Musso initially played for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football league for three years. He was eventually drafted 62nd overall by the Chicago Bears in the 1972 NFL Draft in the third round, and played for three years. Johnny Musso was and still is one of the all-time fan favorites in Alabama history, and considered one of the toughest players to come through the Capstone.
DeMeco Ryans (2002-2005)
Linebacker – Bessemer, AL.
6’1”, 247 lbs
Career Statistics: 307 Tackles (33 for loss), 6.5 Sacks, 2 INTs, 5 Fumble Recoveries
DeMeco Ryans ranks among the very best middle linebackers to ever play for Alabama. He anchored a defense in 2005 that gave up only 10.6 points per game, and still ranks as one of the best defenses in school history. In 2003, along with Roman Harper and Derrick Pope, Ryans combined to have at least 100 tackles, which was the first time in school history three players had over 100 tackles in a season. He also had 9 double figure tackle games in his career at the Capstone.
DeMeco was a consensus First Team All-American in 2005, as well as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He won the Lott Trophy, and was a finalist for the Butkus, Draddy, and Nagurski awards. He won the NCAA Top Eight Award in 2006, as well as the 2006 Cotton Bowl Classic Defensive MVP. Ryans also holds the Alabama record for tackles in a game with 25, which came against Arkansas in 2003.
Demeco Ryans saw playing time all four years in his time at Alabama and was an impact player. He was selected with the first pick of the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans, where he won Defensive Rookie of the Year. He currently plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. Because of his natural football instincts and playmaking ability for an undersized middle linebacker, one could argue that DeMeco Ryans is pound-for-pound the best linebacker in Alabama history.