When the University of Alabama football team decided to hold a special celebration for the 2009 season, the idea of a parade was nixed along with anything that didn't involve Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Walking through the home tunnel one more time with fans ready to greet them was what the players wanted. So January 16, 2010, with approximately 38,000 on hand (and ignoring the lousy weather), the Capstone featured fireworks, tributes, speeches and a whole lot of hardware.
"I want everyone here to know this is not the end," Coach Nick Saban said. "This is the beginning."
Although Tuscaloosa had been waiting a long time for its 13th national title, the first since 1992 and second in 30 years, no one anticipated the most accomplished team in program history. Not only did the Crimson Tide become the first Southeastern Conference team to finish 14-0 to win the crystal football known as the Coaches Trophy, but also landed college football's most prestigious award.
"I'm a little overwhelmed right now," sophomore running back Mark Ingram said. "I'm just so excited to bring Alabama their first Heisman winner."
Adding to the drama was that the vote turned out to be the closest in Heisman Trophy history, with Ingram topping Stanford running back Toby Gerhart by just 28 points. Previously, the narrowest margin was 1985, when only 45 points separated Auburn running back Bo Jackson from the runner-up Chuck Long of Iowa, which was also the last time an SEC running back won.
Meanwhile, junior linebacker Rolando McClain won Alabama's second Butkus Award for linebacker of the year, a record six players were named first-team All-Americans, Saban won the inaugural Bobby Bowden Coach of the Year Award, and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart took home the Broyles Award as the assistant coach of the year.
Numerous records were also set. Ingram set the UA mark for single-season rushing. Kicker Leigh Tiffin took over as the Tide's all-time scoring leader. Javier Arenas finished 10 yards short of becoming the NCAA's career leader in punt-return yards.
"It just shows that when you put in so much hard work and effort that things really do pay off for you," senior guard Mike Johnson said. "I really honestly feel like we worked harder than any other team this year and that's why we came out on top."
Alabama captured its 22nd Southeastern Conference title, was the first team in history to beat 10 opponents that finished with a winning record and it beat the three previous national champions along the way. The victims included No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Florida, No. 10 Virginia Tech, No. 17 LSU and No. 20 Ole Miss, and the Tide also played South Carolina when it was ranked 22nd.
If that wasn't enough, Alabama won the BCS National Championship Game at the site of its first title, the Rose Bowl.
"What an unbelievable year," athletics director Mal Moore added.
14-0, national, SEC champions Date, opponent, location, W/L, score Sept. 5 vs. Virginia Tech Atlanta W 34-24 Sept. 12 Florida International Tuscaloosa W 40-14 Sept. 19 North Texas Tuscaloosa W 53-7 Sept. 26 Arkansas Tuscaloosa W 35-7 Oct. 3 at Kentucky Lexington W 38-20 Oct. 10 at Ole Miss Oxford W 22-3 Oct. 17 South Carolina Tuscaloosa W 20-6 Oct. 24 Tennessee Tuscaloosa W 12-10 Nov. 7 LSU Tuscaloosa W 24-15 Nov. 14 at Mississippi State Starkville W 31-3 Nov. 21 Chattanooga Tuscaloosa W 45-0 Nov. 26 at Auburn Auburn W 26-21 Dec. 5 Florida Atlanta W 32-13 Jan. 7 Texas Rose Bowl W 37-21 Total points: 449-164
Coach Nick Saban Captains: Javier Arenas, Mike Johnson, Rolando McClain Ranking (AP): Preseason No. 5; Postseason No. 1. Major Awards: Mark Ingram, Heisman Trophy; Rolando McClain, Butkus Award All-American: First team _ Mark Ingram, running back; Mike Johnson, guard; Terrence Cody, defensive tackle; Rolando McClain, linebacker; Javier Arenas, cornerback/return specialist; Leigh Tiffin, kicker. Third team _ Mark Barron, safety. Academic All-American _ Colin Peek, tight end. All-SEC (first team): Mark Ingram, running back; Mike Johnson, guard; Terrence Cody, defensive tackle; Rolando McClain, linebacker; Javier Arenas, cornerback/return specialist; Mark Barron, safety; Leigh Tiffin, kicker. Leaders: Rushing _ Mark Ingram (1,658 yards, 271 carries); Passing _ Greg McElroy (198 of 325, 2,508 yards); Receiving _ Julio Jones (43 catches, 596 yards).
SEC Championship Game: Alabama 32, Florida 13 Bowls: Music City (Clemson 21, Kentucky 13), Independence (Georgia 44, Texas A&M 20), Chick-fil-A (Virginia Tech 37, Tennessee 14), Outback (Auburn 38, Northwestern 35, OT), Capital One (Penn State 19, LSU 17), Popajohns.com (Connecticut 20, South Carolina 7), Cotton (Ole Miss 21, Oklahoma State 7), Liberty (Arkansas 20, East Carolina 17), Sugar (Florida 51, Cincinnati 24), BCS Championship (Alabama 37, Texas 21).
All-SEC Offense: QB Tim Tebow, Florida; RB Mark Ingram, Alabama; RB Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State; WR Shay Hodge, Ole Miss; WR A.J. Green, Georgia; TE Aaron Hernandez, Florida; C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida; OL Mike Pouncey, Florida; OL Mike Johnson, Alabama (G); OL Ciron Black, LSU (T); OL Mitch Petrus, Arkansas (T); OL John Jerry, Ole Miss (T). Defense: DL Antonio Coleman, Auburn; DL Terrence Cody, Alabama; DL Carlos Dunlap, Florida; DL Corey Peters, Kentucky; LB Rolando McClain, Alabama; LB Brandon Spikes, Florida; LB Rennie Curran, Georgia; LB Eric Norwood; DB Eric Berry Tennessee; DB Joe Haden, Florida; DB Javier Arenas, Alabama; DB Mark Barron, Alabama. Special Teams: PK: Leigh Tiffin, Alabama; P: Drew Butler, Georgia; RS Javier Arenas, Alabama.
National champions Alabama: BCS
Final rankings Associated Press 1. Alabama (14-0) 2. Texas (13-1) 3. Florida (13-1) 4. Boise State (14-0) 5. Ohio State (11-2) 6. TCU (12-1) 7. Iowa (11-2) 8. Cincinnati (12-1) 9. Penn State (11-2) 10. Virginia Tech (10-3) 11. Oregon (10-3) 12. Brigham Young (11-2) 13. Georgia Tech (11-3) 14. Nebraska (10-4) 15. Pittsburgh (10-3) 16. Wisconsin (10-3) 17. LSU (9-4) 18. Utah (10-3) 19. Miami (9-4) 20. Ole Miss (9-4) 21. Texas Tech (9-4) 22. Southern California (9-4) 23. Central Michigan (12-2) 24. Clemson (9-5) 25. West Virginia (9-4)
Coaches 1. Alabama (14-0) 2. Texas (13-1) 3. Florida (13-1) 4. Boise State (14-0) 5. Ohio State (11-2) 6. TCU (12-1) 7. Iowa (11-2) 8. Penn State (11-2) 9. Cincinnati (12-1) 10. Virginia Tech (10-3) 11. Oregon (10-3) 12. Brigham Young (11-2) 13. Georgia Tech (11-3) 14. Nebraska (10-4) 15. Pittsburgh (10-3) 16. Wisconsin (10-3) 17. LSU (9-4) 18. Utah (10-3) 19. Miami (9-4) 20. Southern California (9-4) 21. Ole Miss (9-4) 22. West Virginia (9-4) 23. Texas Tech (9-4) 24. Central Michigan (12-2) 25. Oklahoma State (9-4)
All-American Team Offense: QB Colt McCoy, Texas; RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford; RB Mark Ingram, Alabama; WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame; WR Jordan Shipley, Texas; TE Dennis Pitta, Brigham Young; T Russell Okung, Oklahoma State; T Trent Williams, Oklahoma; G Mike Johnson, Alabama; G Mike Iupati, Idaho; C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida; K Kai Forbath, UCLA. Defense: DL Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska; DL Jerry Hughes, TCU; DL Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma; DL Terrence Cody, Alabama; LB Rolando McClain, Alabama; LB Greg Jones, Michigan State; LB Brandon Spikes, Florida; DB Eric Berry, Tennessee; DB Joe Haden, Florida DB Javier Arenas, Alabama; DB Earl Thomas, Texas; P Drew Butler Georgia; RS C.J. Spiller, Clemson.