December 2, 2021

Alabama football then & now: Where the 2009 national championship game stars are today – AL.com

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.

Alabama Nick Saban 2009

Alabama Coach Nick Saban holds the trophy with Alabama running back Mark Ingram (22) and Alabama defensive back Javier Arenas (28) at right after beating Texas in the BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009. (Birmingham News/ Mark Almond) BNBN

Nick Saban

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.

2021 National Championship: Alabama vs. Ohio State

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood hold the trophy after their win against Ohio State in an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama won 52-24. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)AP

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.

Mack Brown

Texas Coach Mack Brown yells at on official after a personal foul was called against one of his players in the fourth quarter of the BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010. (Birmingham News/ Mark Almond) bnbn

Mack Brown

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.

North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech

North Carolina coach Mack Brown watches after his squad made a field goal in overtime against Virginia Tech during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) APAP

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.

Greg McElroy

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy (12) hands off to Mark Ingram (22) in the BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009. (Birmingham News/ Mark Almond) BNBN

Greg McElroy

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.

Nick Saban

Nick Saban is interviewed by former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy at SEC Media Days in Hoover.AP

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.”

Mark Ingram

Alabama running back Mark Ingram (22) slides into the end zone after scoring a touchdown to clinch the win over Texas 37-21 inthe BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009. (Birmingham News/ Butch Dill) bnbn

Mark Ingram

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.

Mark Ingram

Houston Texans running back Mark Ingram II (2) runs the ball in the first half of a preseason NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth) APAP

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.

Julio Jones

Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones (8) catches a pass for a first down over Texas defender Earl Thomas (12) in the BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009. (Birmingham News/ Butch Dill) bnbn

Julio Jones

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.

Julio Jones

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Julio Jones (2) during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)AP

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.

Colt McCoy

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy (12) watches from the sidelines in the BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009. (Press-Register/ Bill Starling) bnbn

Colt McCoy

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.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Colt McCoy (12) throws against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz.AP

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.

Eryk Anders

Alabama defensive back Javier Arenas (28) and Alabama linebacker Eryk Anders (32) celebrate after the sack by Anders that caused a fumble in the BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009. (Birmingham News/ Butch Dill) bnbn

Eryk Anders

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.

Eryk Anders

Eryk Anders (left) hits Elias Theodorou during a middleweight bout at UFC 231 on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)AP

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.

Marcell Dareus

ARCHIVED PHOTO-Alabama Marcell Dareus (57) celebrates after a returning an interceptionfor a touchdown in the BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009. (Press-Register/ Bill Starling) BNBN

Marcell Dareus

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.

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (99) cheers during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Mike Marshall)AP

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.

Texas vs Alabama, BCS National Championship Game at Pasadena, Calif, SORTS

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart watches his players on the field at Costa Mesa High School in Costa Mesa, Calif during Alabama’s practice Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010. (Press-Register. Bill Starling) SPORTS Press-RegisterPress-Register

Kirby Smart

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 Smart

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart signals to his players during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)AP

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.

Texas vs Alabama, BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena, Calif, SORTS

Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp answers a reporter’s question during their press conference Monday, Jan. 4, 2010. (Press-Register. Bill Starling) SPORTS Press-Register MOPress-Register MO

Will Muschamp

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.

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp yells at an official during the game against Mississippi in the first half in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 in Oxford, Miss. Mississippi won 59-42.

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp yells at an official during the game against Mississippi in the first half in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 in Oxford, Miss. Mississippi won 59-42. (AP Photo/Bruce Newman)AP

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.

Trent Richardson

Alabama running back Trent Richardson (3) tries to evade Texas linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy (38) during the BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009. (Press-Register/ Bill Starling) BNBN

Trent Richardson

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.

Atlanta Legends v Birmingham Iron

Birmingham Iron running back Trent Richardson carries the football during an AAF game against the Atlanta Legends on March 31, 2019, at Legion Field in Birmingham.Logan Riely/Getty Images

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.

Javier Arenas

Alabama defensive back Javier Arenas (28) intercepts a pass late in the game to clinch their win over Texas 37-21 in the BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009. (Birmingham News/ Butch Dill) bnbn

Javier Arenas

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.

Alabama Kentucky Fans Pregame 2020

Former Crimson Tide player and current assistant coach Javier Arenas. Alabama and Kentucky fans gather at the Walk of Champions and other campus spots ahead of kickoff in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (Ben Flanagan / AL.com)

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.

Garrett Gilbert

Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert (3) is sacked by Alabama’s Javier Arenas (28) and Rolando McClain (25) in the BCS National Championship Game at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009. (Press-Register/ Bill Starling) bnbn

Garrett Gilbert

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.

Pro Football Hall of Fame Game

Cowboys QB Garrett Gilbert (3) is sacked for a loss during first half action on Thursday, August 5, 2021 in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. The game in Tom Benson Stadium is the official kickoff of the NFL preseason.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

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.