Alabama high school football has produced numerous players who moved on to professional football, but which one had the best overall pro career?
Whittling the list down to a manageable number has been a difficult task.
An AL.com analysis found 11 finalists – let’s call them the Starting 11 – to choose from in our reader poll, an installment in the summer-long Pigskin Preview. The idea is simple: Pick the player who had the best pro career, regardless of his high school or college success.
The list includes two quarterbacks, three linebackers, three wide receivers, a tight end, a defensive lineman and an offensive lineman.
No current players – not Philip Rivers or Julio Jones or Mark Barron or Karlos Dansby– are included on the list, because their professional careers have not concluded.
Here’s a look at the Starting 11, with name, position and high school:
Cornelius Bennett, LB, Ensley
A versatile athlete who played running back, tight end and linebacker at Ensley High, Bennett was a three-time All-American at Alabama and later played in five Super Bowls and twice won the AFC Defensive Player of the Year award while playing for the Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts in a career that spanned 1987-2005. He finished his NFL career with 1,190 tackles and 71.5 sacks.
Robert Brazile, LB, Vigor
Known as “Dr. Doom” because of his pass-rushing skills, the Jackson (Miss.) State and Vigor High product was the No. 6 selection in the 1975 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. He garnered seven Pro Bowl nominations, earned a spot in the NFL All-1970s team, won the 1975 NFL Rookie of the Year award, and started 147 consecutive games. He is credited with 1,281 tackles and 13 interceptions in his career.
Buck Buchanan, DL, Parker
A star at Grambling (La.) State for legendary coach Eddie Robinson, the 6-foot-7, 287-pounder was the first pick in the 1963 AFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He was six-time All-AFL selection, a two-time Pro Bowl honoree, had his number retired by the Chiefs and won Super Bowl IV. A durable player who played in 166 straight pro games, he is a member of the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
John Hannah, OL, Albertville
Dubbed the “Best Offensive Lineman of All-Time” by Sports Illustrated in 1981, his career began as a national high school wrestling champion and football star at The Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn., before playing his senior season at Albertville High. After starring at Alabama, he was the fourth overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, earned spots on the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL All-1970s Team and the NFL All-1980s team, was named All-Pro 10 times, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
Harlon Hill, WR, Lauderdale County
The Killen native and Lauderdale County High graduate starred at North Alabama – then known as Florence State Teachers College – and won the NAIA Player of the Year award in 1953. He was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1954 for the Chicago Bears after catching 12 TDs and compiling 1,145 receiving yards (both still stand at team records) and finished with 4,616 receiving yards and 40 TDs in a career shortened by an Achilles tendon injury.
Lee Roy Jordan, LB, Excel
A standout fullback at Excel, Jordan starred at Alabama from 1960-62 and had 31 tackles in the Orange Bowl. A first-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys, he became a mainstay a middle linebacker and won one Super Bowl, was selected to the Pro Bowl five times and made 1,236 tackles while making 154 consecutive starts in a career that spanned 1963-76.
Ozzie Newsome, TE, Colbert County
The Colbert County High grad was a two-time SEC Player of the Year at Alabama before the Cleveland Browns picked him in the first round of the 1978 NFL Draft. He earned three trips to the Pro Bowl, was named to the 1980s All-NFL Team, and won the NFL Man of the Year award in 1989. He finished with 662 catches for 7,980 yards and 47 TDs and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He is now the general manager of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Terrell Owens, WR, Benjamin Russell
The Benjamin Russell grad played football and basketball at Tennessee-Chattanooga and was selected in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. One of the most controversial players in NFL history, he is a six-time Pro Bowl selection and a member of the NFL All-2000s Team. He caught 1,078 passes for 15,935 yards and 156 TDs. His 156 TDs ranks fifth all-time in NFL history.
Kenny Stabler, QB, Foley
After leading Foley to a 29-1 record and Alabama to a 28-3-2 record as a starter, the Oakland Raiders drafted him in the second round of the 1968 NFL Draft. He was the AFC Player of the Year in 1974 and 1976 and led the Raiders to a Super Bowl title in 1977. He threw for more than 27,000 yards and 194 touchdowns in his career, although he also threw 222 interceptions.
John Stallworth, WR, Tuscaloosa High
The Tuscaloosa native played at Alabama AM before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, played on four Super Bowl winning teams, won the 1984 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He finished with 537 career receptions for 8,723 yards and 63 TDs.
Bart Starr, QB, Sidney Lanier
A 17th-round draft pick in 1956 after playing little during his final two seasons at Alabama, he took over as the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback in 1959. He was named the MVP of the first two Super Bowls, won the league MVP award in 1966, posted a 9-1 postseason record, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. He threw for 24,718 yards and 152 touchdowns in his career.
Who did we miss? Who did we leave out? Please drop a civil comment below.