My Favorite Alabama Football Player of All-Time is David Palmer

MandatoryCredit: Tim Defrisco/ALLSPORT
MandatoryCredit: Tim Defrisco/ALLSPORT /

Before Freddie Milons, Tyrone Prothro, and Javier Arenas, Alabama football possessed a potent, jack of all trades weapon in David Palmer. An immaculate talent, he could do anything on the football field.

Throughout Alabama football history, there were players among the best of their era, but their greatness wanes as time presses on. Whenever there is a Twitter poll for prominent Crimson Tide receivers, names such as Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy, Calvin Ridley, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle quickly graces the screen.

Newer fans have no idea the enormous impact a matchless athletic five-foot-eight wide receiver, “The Deuce,” David Palmer had on Alabama football in the early 1990s.

Back then, an electrifying Palmer reminded me of a better, souped-up version of Rocket Ismail. He was like a gust of wind, leaving everyone in their wake. He owned more ankle-breaking jukes than Barry Sanders, displayed excellent speed, and exceptional hands. David took superhuman poundings but kept getting up. His swagger and staunch confidence oozed whenever he took the field.

The first time I ever saw him play was at Jackson-Olin against my school. His legend was already cemented in Birmingham, going back to his Little League days at Ensley Park. My school lost 8-0, with Palmer scoring the only touchdown plus converting the two-point conversion. He started at quarterback and played multiple positions in the game.

Palmer would proceed to win Alabama’s Mr. Football, for the best high school player in the state. David was one of the first players, defenses needed to account for wherever he lined up on the field.

Freshman Sensation

Palmer landed at the Capstone, ready to make a name for himself on a bigger stage. He arrived at a time when rugged defenses and devastating run-oriented offenses were the Alabama calling card.

In his fourth collegiate game, he exploded for 212, all-purpose yards and two scores against Vanderbilt, including his first punt return touchdown on the season. Two weeks later, against Tulane, Palmer had three scores, including a 69-yard punt return.

After the game, Gene Stallings praised the young freshman,

"“We’ve said all along that here’s a guy that is a talented player. Every time he touches the ball, I feel like something is going to happen.”"

Palmer brought a unique advantage to the Alabama offense, by lining up at receiver, halfback or quarterback.

His cold, silky smooth, slippery, game-breaking return prowess was comparable to Deion Sanders. His patented skip before exploding through holes, an innate ability to split defenders, the implausible angles he took and making them whiff by grabbing nothing but the air – all were his trademarks.

He started the LSU game with a 90-yard return. Against Auburn, Palmer lined up at quarterback, and his lone 10-yard touchdown scamper won the Iron Bowl.

Capping off his ridiculous freshman season, “The Deuce” put on a show in the 1991 Blockbuster Bowl with his fourth punt return score on the season and a five-yard TD reception to seal the victory for the Crimson Tide.

His numbers were down his sophomore year after a three-game suspension for two DUIs; however, Alabama won the national championship. The defense was the best in the country led by bookends John Copeland and Eric Curry. Nevertheless, Alabama football does not win without Palmer. In the championship game against Miami, Palmer set the tone early by taking a punt return, cutting and weaving and taking it deep in the heart of Hurricanes territory.

Legendary Status

Palmer’s defining moment at the Capstone is his game-tying two-point conversion against Tennessee. With 28 game unbeaten streak on the line and seven-game win streak versus the Vols, Palmer was instrumental on the last drive as he made three crucial catches and finished it off by lining up at quarterback and sprinting around right end to tie the game.

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His overall numbers do not define his overall impact on the team. A Consensus All-American and All-SEC first team, David led the SEC in receiving yards his junior season (1,000) and once led the nation in punt return TDs as a freshman.

Before Mark Ingram won the Heisman, Palmer had the highest finish of any Tide player (finishing third in 1993 behind Charlie Ward and Heath Shuler). After Palmer’s 1,000 yard season in 1993, there was a 16-year drought in Tuscaloosa before another Tide receiver had as many yards. Additionally, he was the first Tide player to catch 61 passes in a season and post a career-high 217 receiving yards against Vanderbilt.

Former Mississippi State head coach Jackie Sherrill summed it best, “As long as you have David Palmer, you have a chance to win.” A Heisman Trophy winner, Charles Woodson, even recognized his greatness by saying the reason he wore number 2 was because of Palmer.

Palmer was a treat to watch in his prime. You could say he evolved from Alabama’s greatest high school player ever to being placed on the Mount Rushmore of generational Alabama football players.

dark. Next. Jeudy and Ruggs Are A Confident Pair

This the fourth in our Bama Hammer series, “My Favorite All-Time Tide Player is …” Check out our earlier three, Joe Namath, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Antonio Langham.