Alabama Roots: Top 10 in NFL interceptions (2024)

The 2023 season offered the possibility that the list of former Alabama high school and college players with the most NFL interceptions would get a new member in the top 10.

A player needs 24 interceptions to reach that ranking. Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) entered last season with 19 after tying for the NFL lead with six in 2022, and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (Alabama) had 17 after his first three NFL seasons, including an Alabama-roots record 11 interceptions in 2021.

Both players had injured-affected seasons, with Fitzpatrick missing seven games and Diggs missing 15. Fitzpatrick did not have an interception and Diggs had one in 2023.

Consequently, former North Alabama standout Jackrabbit Jenkins remains the only player in the Alabama-roots top 10 for NFL interceptions who has been on the field within the past 20 seasons.

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Even though the NFL offenses pass much more than when most of the players in the top 10 were active, interceptions are harder to come by.

In the 1970s, the NFL began to adopt rules that prevented defensive players from hitting, chucking and pushing potential receivers during their routes, as they had been allowed to do except when the football was in the air. This old style of pass coverage gave defenses much more leeway to disrupt pass patterns and spoil timing routes than they have today, and that created more interception opportunities.

In 1978, the NFL adopted a rule that aimed to eliminate contact with receivers more than 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. But it wasn’t until 1996 that the NFL announced its officials were going to crack down and strictly enforce that rule.

In 2001, the NFL announced its roughing-the-passer rule would be more stringently enforced, kicking off a wave of regulations aimed at protecting quarterbacks.

Statistics indicate the rule changes have made completing passes easier and intercepting passes harder. In 1977, the season before the 5-yard rule, NFL quarterbacks completed 51.32 percent of their throws and had 5.74 percent of their passes intercepted. In 2023, the completion rate was 64.5 percent and the interception rate was 2.3 percent.

Even the increase in opportunities – from 9,786 passes in 1977 to 18,315 in 2023 – did not make up the difference in the quantity of interceptions. In 1977, 562 passes were intercepted in the NFL. In 2022, the interception total was 430.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson had more career interceptions than any other player who appeared in the 2023 season, and he ranks tied for 118th on the NFL’s all-time list with 36.

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (Park Crossing) and Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams (UAB) had the most interceptions in the 2023 season among players from Alabama high schools and colleges with four apiece.

ALABAMA ROOTS: THE 100 GREATEST CAREERS OF THE NFL’S 104 SEASONS

The 10 players with Alabama football roots who have recorded the most interceptions include:

Alabama Roots: Top 10 in NFL interceptions (1)

1. Bobby Hunt, Lanett High School, Auburn: 42 interceptions

Dallas Texans 1962, Kansas City Chiefs 1963-1967, Cincinnati Bengals 1968-1969: A safety, Hunt was an All-AFL selection on a championship team as a rookie in 1962 and led the AFL with 10 interceptions in 1966 for another AFL championship team. While he’s tied for 67th in NFL history in interceptions, Hunt is 39th in interception-return yards with 755.

2. Eric Davis, Anniston High School, Jacksonville State: 38 interceptions

San Francisco 49ers 1990-1995, Carolina Panthers 1996-2000, Denver Broncos 2001, Detroit Lions 2002: A cornerback, Davis was a first-team All-Pro once and a Pro Bowler twice and returned four of his interceptions for touchdowns. Not counted in Davis’ total are six postseason interceptions, including four in three games during the 1994 playoffs, when the 49ers won Super Bowl XXIX.

3. Andy Nelson, Athens High School: 33 interceptions

Baltimore Colts 1957-1963, New York Giants 1964: A safety, Nelson was a first-team All-Pro in 1959 on the Colts’ second straight NFL championship team. The previous season, he led the NFL with 199 return yards on eight interceptions.

4. Lee Roy Jordan, Excel High School, Alabama: 32 interceptions

Dallas Cowboys 1963-1976: A middle linebacker for most of his career, Jordan was a first-team All-Pro once and a Pro Bowler five times and reached a high of six interceptions in 1975. Jordan had four playoff interceptions that don’t show up in his total, including two in 1971 postseason, when the Cowboys won Super Bowl VI.

5. Wes Hopkins, John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham: 30 interceptions

Philadelphia Eagles 1983-1993: A safety, Hopkins earned first-team All-Pro recognition in 1985, when he reached a career-high six interceptions.

5. Don Hutson, Alabama: 30 interceptions

Green Bay Packers 1935-1945: The NFL’s first star receiver, Hutson was a member of the inaugural class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But in the days of two-way football, he also played defensive back, leading the NFL with six interceptions in 1940 and with 197 return yards on eight interceptions in 1943.

7. Mike Washington, Lee High School in Montgomery, Alabama: 28 interceptions

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976-1984: Washington was the right cornerback for the Bucs for most of their first eight seasons of existence. He intercepted a career-high six passes in 1981.

8. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama: 27 interceptions

St. Louis Rams 2012-2015, New York Giants 2016-2019, New Orleans Saints 2019-2020, Tennessee Titans 2021, San Francisco 49ers 2022: A cornerback, Jenkins got the most out of his interceptions by returning eight for touchdowns. That’s tied for eighth in NFL history and are the most for a player with Alabama football roots.

9. Hanford Dixon, Theodore High School: 26 interceptions

Cleveland Browns 1981-1989: A cornerback, Dixon was a first-team All-Pro twice and a Pro Bowler three times. He had five interceptions in 1984 and 1986.

10. Speedy Duncan, Druid High School in Tuscaloosa: 24 interceptions

San Diego Chargers 1964-1970, Washington Redskins 1971-1974: A noted punt and kickoff returner, Duncan also spent five seasons of his career as a starting cornerback, and he was an AFL all-star in the first three of those. He returned three of his interceptions for touchdowns, including a 100-yarder in 1967.

10. Zeke Moore, Booker T. Washington High School in Tuskegee: 24 interceptions

Houston Oilers 1967-1977: Moore caught on as a kick returner with the Oilers, but became a starting cornerback, reaching a career high of six interceptions in 1970, the second of his two Pro Bowl seasons.

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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at@AMarkG1.

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Alabama Roots: Top 10 in NFL interceptions (2024)
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