- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Denny had ample reason to hedge his hopes in Thomas. The coach was just 32 years old, only eight years out of Notre Dame (where he had lettered three times at quarterback under Knute Rockne) and was taking over a team that had just won the 1930 national championship. With that team's coach, Wallace Wade, gone to Duke and 10 of 11 starters lost to graduation, ' Bama boosters were not putting much stock in the new coach's chances of spurring a repeat.
But Thomas quickly proved his worth. His first Tide team had a 9-1 record and outscored its opponents 360-51. Then, in 1933, ' Bama went 5-0-1 in the newly formed SEC and won the conference's first title. A national title followed a share of another SEC championship in 1934, along with All-America honors for halfback Millard (Dixie) Howell, end Don Hutson and tackle Bill Lee. (Both Howell and Hutson eventually joined Thomas in the College Football Hall of Fame, as did another Thomas player, Paul Bryant.
For the decade of the '30s the Tide finished with a 79-11-5 overall mark—all but one of those years under Thomas, who never had a losing season in Tuscaloosa and had two 10-win seasons. He added another national championship in 1941 before retiring as head coach for health reasons in '46.
From humble beginnings, Thomas earned himself a place in the pantheon of Crimson Tide football: His .8116 career winning percentage puts him in third place just behind Wade (.8117) and Bryant (.8240).
PLAYER OF THE DECADE
LIKE ZOOT SUITS AND STAMP COLLECTING, the single wing offense was all the rage in the '30s, but it wasn't until Ken Kavanaugh went to LSU that the offense truly took flight. The 6'3", 203-pound end had 30 catches for 470 yards as a senior, in '39—an astounding total given the single wing's emphasis on the ground game. His totals were tops in the nation and earned him SEC MVP and All-America honors, and seventh-place in the Heisman balloting. Kavanaugh was taken in the '40 draft by the Chicago Bears and played eight NFL seasons. He led the Bears in receiving as a rookie, then left after the following season for a three-year tour as a bomber pilot during World War II. Kavanaugh flew 30 missions over Germany, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]