The 2009 Alabama football team remains one of the best in program history. Until the 2020 season, it was Nick Saban’s only Crimson Tide squad to go undefeated and win a national championship.
Saban’s team dominated Texas in the BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., thanks to the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram, and the excellent defense led by stars such as Marcell Dareus and assistant coach Kirby Smart.
More than a decade later, we wanted to take a look back at the main characters from the championship game that launched the Saban dynasty, his first of six national titles at Alabama, and catch up with what everyone (including those on the Texas side) is doing in 2021.
In just his third season as head coach at Alabama, Saban led the Tide to an undefeated season, defeating Texas in the BCS championship game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It marked the program’s 13th national title overall and Saban’s second after he had won one as LSU’s coach prior to his stint in the NFL.
Saban is now arguably the greatest coach in history
Saban has won six national championships at Alabama, amassing 165 wins and just 23 losses to form college football’s modern dynasty, perhaps even surpassing the golden years of the Paul “Bear” Bryant era in Tuscaloosa. The Tide defeated Ohio State in the College Football Playoff last season after another undefeated season, and with another stellar recruiting class in sight, Saban shows no signs of slowing down.
The Tennessee-born Brown had led Texas to a BCS national championship victory over USC in 2005, and he coached the Longhorns up again to reach the final just four seasons later behind quarterback Colt McCoy. But Alabama dominated, and Texas wouldn’t climb to the mountaintop again, with Brown leaving the program after the 2013 season.
Brown is back in college football’s top 10
After coaching North Carolina for a decade prior to taking the Texas job, Brown (now 70) returned to lead the Tar Heels in 2019, resulting in two winning seasons with one bowl victory so far. Expectations are high in 2021, with UNC ranked 10th in the preseason AP poll.
In his first season as starting quarterback, the California-born McElroy proved himself to be much more than just a game manager and led the Tide’s balanced offensive attack to an impressive undefeated season, including a standout SEC championship game performance. McElroy threw for just 58 yards in the national title game against Texas as the Tide’s running game and defense led the way.
You can hear McElroy on your morning drive
McElroy put up impressive stats during his senior season at Alabama and played a few games in the NFL for the New York Jets, but he quickly pivoted to television, impressing early on as an analyst and color commentator for ESPN. The former Tide QB now co-hosts “McElroy & Cubelic in the Morning” for WJOX, airing daily from 7-10 a.m. The show replaced the station’s long-running morning show “The Roundtable.”
Alabama’s first-ever Heisman Trophy-winner churned for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns as the focal point of the Tide’s offense. Ingram capped the season with a 116-yard, two-touchdown performance in the national title game, becoming one of the most celebrated figures in Crimson Tide history.
Ingram has a new squad
The first-round NFL draft pick earned three Pro Bowl selections playing for the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens during his first 10 seasons as a pro. The running back recently signed with the Houston Texans, for whom he will debut in 2021.
The superstar recruit from Foley made an impact on and off the field at Alabama, helping to change the attitude and identity of the program with a team-first mentality and performance at wide receiver. With Alabama’s running game leading the offense, Jones accounted for 596 yards and four touchdowns but forced opponents to key on his every move, opening the way for the rest of Alabama’s offense. He had one catch for 23 yards in the Texas game, but his presence was widely felt.
After 10 seasons in Atlanta, Jones is a Titan
Jones was picked seventh overall in the 2011 NFL draft, earning five All-Pro and seven Pro Bowl selections as arguably the league’s best receiver. After spending a decade with the Falcons, Jones will play for the Tennessee Titans in 2021. He was recently named the No. 29 best player in the NFL Network’s Top 100 players in the league.
The decorated Texas QB led the Longhorns to a perfect regular season and a Big 12 championship before falling short against Alabama at the Rose Bowl. McCoy suffered a shoulder injury during the first quarter that knocked him out for the rest of the game. He completed his only two passes for 9 yards.
If Colt hadn’t gotten hurt…well, he made the NFL anyway
McCoy has since played more than a decade in the NFL for five teams, starting his career with the Cleveland Browns and currently backing up quarterback Kyler Murray with the Arizona Cardinals.
After a dominant first half, Alabama saw its lead dwindle to three points thanks to Texas backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert’s efforts. The Longhorns had the ball with 6:15 left in the game before Bama linebacker Eryk Anders came unblocked for a blindside strip-sack, giving the Tide possession and ultimately clinching their 13th national championship.
Don’t mess with Eryk Anders
Anders played some professional football, signing with the Cleveland Browns for a short stint before playing in the Canadian and Arena Football Leagues. But he traded the pads for gloves and pursued a career in mixed martial arts in which he competes in the middleweight division for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Anders currently has a record of 14 wins (with eight knockouts) and five losses.
The defensive MVP of the BCS title game, Dareus had two huge plays against Texas: He laid the hit that knocked McCoy out of the game, and then he returned an intercepted shovel pass for a touchdown to put Bama up 24-6 before halftime. The Huffman High School product had a monstrous game for Alabama, boosting his NFL stock heading into his junior season in 2010.
Once a dominant NFL lineman
Dareus was picked third overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2011, earning a first-team All-Pro selection in 2014 and two Pro Bowl selections. Dareus also played a few seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and is now a free agent.
Smart joined Saban’s staff in 2007 before taking over as defensive coordinator the next year up until the 2015 season, helping the Tide win four national championships with one dominant defense after another. The 2009 defense produced multiple NFL players such as Rolando McClain, Kareem Jackson, Marcell Dareus and Mark Barron, and marked Smart’s lone undefeated national title season in the role.
Kirby is chasing Saban for the SEC crown
Smart took over as Georgia’s head coach in 2016, amassing an impressive 52-16 overall record with four bowl victories. He led the Bulldogs to a national championship game appearance after defeating Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. But he would fall to his old boss Nick Saban after Tua Tagovailoa connected with DeVonta Smith for a walk-off touchdown pass in overtime. Smart is currently 0-3 against Saban, but his Georgia squad remains nationally competitive each season.
Muschamp served as defensive coordinator at Texas from 2008 until 2010, and even had the title of “head coach-in-waiting” with plans to succeed Mack Brown once he retired.
In and out of head coaching gigs
Turned out Muschamp didn’t want to wait any longer, as he took the head gig at Florida in 2011. He had another DC stint with Auburn before taking over as South Carolina’s head coach in 2015. He now serves as an analyst under Kirby Smart at Georgia. Muschamp’s overall head coaching record is 56-51.
The highly touted freshman from Pensacola, Fla., could have started literally anywhere else in the SEC, let alone the country. But he and Heisman-winner Mark Ingram made for a formidable backfield all season, culminating in a dominant national title game performance. Richardson ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns, including one 49-yard score in which he ran virtually untouched to the end zone.
Finding his way in football
After being selected third overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 2011 NFL Draft, Richardson had a strong rookie season, gaining 950 rushing yards and scoring 11 touchdowns. He struggled in subsequent seasons with the Browns and Indianapolis Colts, sending him on a winding professional football path during which he played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Birmingham Iron. In May 2021, Richardson signed a one-year contract to play for the Caudillos de Chihuahua, a franchise in Futbol Americano de Mexico. The Doak Walker Award winner and unanimous All-American remains one of the Tide’s all-time great running backs.
One of college football’s most dynamic kick/punt returners, Arenas also contributed on the defensive end as the Tide’s productive nickel DB. He had only four punt returns for 19 yards in the title game, but he grabbed two interceptions from Garrett Gilbert, including one that ultimately sealed the game.
Entering the coaching arena
After NFL stints with the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills, Arenas retired from playing and switched to coaching. He’s now an assistant coach under Nick Saban, working with the secondary and special teams.
Gilbert never expected to play while Colt McCoy was still at Texas, but when the QB1 went down, the highly touted freshman entered the picture under near-impossible circumstances. While shaky early on, Gilbert righted the ship enough to cut Bama’s lead to 24-21 in the fourth quarter, connecting with Jordan Shipley for two touchdowns. But late turnovers — including a strip-sack by Eryk Anders and a fourth pick — ultimately ended the Longhorns’ comeback campaign.
Gilbert is fighting for a roster spot
Gilbert transferred from Texas in 2011, finishing his collegiate career at SMU. The St. Louis Rams selected him in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and Gilbert would subsequently play for seven teams. After competing for a backup spot on the Dallas Cowboys, for whom he started in the annual Hall of Fame game because of Dak Prescott’s injury, Gilbert was cut this week.