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1st and Five: All-Time Most Respected Players from the Other Sideline



Gonna try something a little different than to go negative with all these Iron Bowl threads. We're going to raise the level of discourse just a tad. Sure, Auburn wants to beat Alabama more than any other team, and Alabama wants to beat Auburn. And sure, a lot of fans genuinely dislike or even hate the other with every fiber of their being. But regardless of how much enmity you possess for the other side of the most intense rivalry in all of college football, there's one thing that you must have for them--and I don't care what you say, you do have it-- you have R E S P E C T. Without them as role of chief villan and the fierceness of the competition, the state of Alabama probably doesn't have the finest tandem of CFB teams than any other state in the nation, and then where would we be?

Over the years, you've seen the opposing teams in the Iron Bowl. Some of the players you openly scorned, but secretly, you may have wished that you had them on your side. You respected them for their accomplishments and what they brought to this series or to a particular game. It's not weakness to have respect for your opponent. In fact, it is a necessity to ultimately acheive self-respect.

I want you to list the top five players from the other team that you respect(ed) the most during your era as a fan (define that how you wish). Alabama fans, we certainly welcome you to participate, hence the non-partisan wording of this post. Be genuine, not sarcastic. If you're an Auburn fan, you can't say that Ed Scissum (and his 1997 fumble) is one of your favorites, nor if you're an Alabama fan, that Robert McGinty (and his 1984 missed field goal) is one of yours.

Try and stay within the boundaries of your era as a fan. Although I know that Bart Starr, Kenny Stabler and Joe Namath were all legends even before going to the pros, I never saw them play, so I won't bring them up. That may date some people, but that's the nature of the rivalry in general. Obviously, the players of your youth may stand out, but that's the way it is with everything else, too.

For me:

1) Derrick Thomas,LB 1986-89: For younger Tiger fans not familiar with Thomas, he was the equivalent of our Aundray Bruce. He was all everything for Alabama. If anyone could succeed Cornelius Bennett as the prototypical linebacker at the Capstone, it was him. A Butkus winner, his play was dominating on the field all the time. Thomas perhaps shuffled in the transition in the game from big burly linebackers to faster-moving ones. It's amazing that he never beat Auburn during his career. In an age where the personalities of players didn't really shine through to the public until they got into the pros, Thomas was a genuinely likeable guy. He went on to dominate in the NFL until his tragic death from injuries suffered in a car accident in 2000.

2) Mark Ingram, RB 2008-10: It's hard not to appreciate the 2009 Heisman trophy winner, a hard-nose runner who's family story presented the perfect back drop last year as the son redeemed the father through his play and his team's championship. Ingram earned his status as one of the Tide's best backs ever through gritty play and solid determination and will certainly retire with most of Alabama rushing records. His emotional acceptance speech has to be the most heart-felt ever in Heisman history. Ingram is 2-0 against Auburn and may elect for the draft this spring, so now's the last shot we've got at him.

3) Bobby Humphrey, RB 1985-88: The career leader in Tide rushing before Shaun Alexander came along. It's hard to believe that he was fighting for carries his freshman year with Gene Jelks before he finally won out the starting job, sending Jelks to play in the secondary. A dynamic and quick back, he and AU's Brent Fulwood will forever go down in Iron Bowl glory with their performances in the 1986 game, both logging over 200 yards rushing in the drizzle at Legion Field. Humphrey had a dynamic yet very short career in the pros and finished his career 1-3 against Auburn.

4) Cornelius Bennett, LB 1983-86: A fearsome player, even the way Keith Jackson pronounced his name with a long 'NEEEEL' in the middle would strike fear in the hearts of Auburn fans. This guy was simply the most dominant linebacker in college football at the time. He won All-American three times and even finished in the top 10 of the Heisman balloting his senior year. Bennett went 2-2 in his career against the Tigers, which was amazing for us, if you ever saw this guy play. More physical but not as fast as Derrick Thomas.

5) Gary Hollingsworth, QB 1987-1990: I bet you're saying. "WHO?" Probably the most unlikely looking of quarterbacks, Hollingsworth was thin and deliberate and quiet, especially on the field. He came out of nowhere to lead the 1989 Bill Curry team to an undefeated season coming into the Iron Bowl. I can't begin to describe to you the unorthodox offense the Tide ran that year, probably something in between a pass-happy option and an early version of the spread, but Hollingsworth ran it perfectly, standing in the pocket or occasionally running just outside it, finding receivers for short gains with pin point precision. Every down you thought the defense would gobble him up, but this guy just had an eerily efficient effectiveness to him. I'm not really sure what he did his senior year--he might have given way to Jay Barker coming in. Someone help me if you remember. 1-3 would have been Hollingsworth's record against us.

Now it's time to hear yours. Send the link to this thread to your Bama friends. I'd really like to hear their thoughts on us. Zero tolerance for trolls here--on both sides. Leave it for the other threads.