‘Italian Stallion’ Johnny Musso Shares Faith Story at University of Mobile

Kathy DeanAdvancement, News

MOBILE, Ala. – The Italian Stallion – football legend Johnny Musso – shared his faith story with University of Mobile supporters at the Partners for Purpose fundraising luncheon on Oct. 19. The event raised scholarships for students at the Christian university.


In an interview format hosted by Dan Brennan, co-host of Mobile Mornings on FM Talk 1065, Musso recalled being recruited by Alabama Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Musso spoke of his mother, whose cooking was often praised by Coach Bryant, and whose “life of joy” despite severe hardships was founded on faith. While being raised in a home where devotion was modeled, Musso said it wasn’t until he was married with a child that he developed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

A self-described “straight arrow” in high school who didn’t drink or smoke, Musso said that, as a college student, “I didn’t turn into a monster, but I was just pretty average in what I would do or not do. I didn’t want to stand out and do something wrong that I’d get embarrassed about, but on the other hand, I compromised my morals and just lived like people live.

“I started accumulating guilt. I’d still go to church, but I knew I was not living right,” he said.

He married and, two years after school, the couple had their first child. It was “a transformative moment, seeing my son’s birth.” Musso realized he would be an influence in his son’s life, “and I wasn’t prepared for it.” 

During his second off-season in professional football, the family lived in an apartment in Birmingham. That was when a backyard conversation with a neighbor and former Alabama teammate, whose life had visibly changed as a result of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, proved the turning point for Musso.

“One night we invited him over, and I just asked him, ‘You are different than I remember. And he told me how Jesus had changed his life. And it had credibility; he was different from my perspective. And I’m going to church every day with this guilt, trying to get it off of me, trying to be a better person. So I was ready,” Musso said.

“He explained that Jesus died for my sins. I knew Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but this was personal, and it made sense. It started my life all over. I prayed that God would show me what He had for me. 

“I went to bed that night, and I woke up the next morning and life was just different. I could feel God’s spirit inside of me. It was very emotional and very dramatic for me. It was like night and day. And so I started walking with the Good Lord, and it was just a new day for me. That’s how I became a Christian.”


‘The Italian Stallion’

Musso was born in March of 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama. Nicknamed “The Italian Stallion,” he was a star running back at Frazier Banks High School in Birmingham. After graduating high school, Musso joined the Crimson Tide football team at the University of Alabama, where he played for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant as a three-year starter at halfback.

Known as a “bulldozing blocker and breakaway runner”, Johnny was a part of the now famous “switch to the wishbone” in 1971, famously upsetting USC with Musso scoring two touchdowns in the win.

College Career

Musso was twice an All-American and a three-time All-Southeastern Conference player. As a senior, he finished fourth in the voting for the 1971 Heisman Trophy and was named “Player of the Year” by Football News, The Miami Touchdown Club and the Touchdown Club of Atlanta.

He led the Southeastern Conference in rushing two years and in scoring (100 points) in 1971. He set a school record for rushing touchdowns (34) that lasted 28 years. His career rushing yardage of 2,742 was also a school record.

Musso’s big games included 221 yards against Auburn in 1970 and four touchdowns against Florida in 1971. Musso holds an Alabama team record for most rushes in a game; 42 in the 1970 Iron Bowl. He was a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete and an NCAA postgraduate scholarship winner.

Professional Career


Musso was selected by Chicago in the 1972 NFL draft but chose instead to play for the Canadian Football League’s British Columbia Lions (1972 – 1974) where he ran for over 1,000 yards in 1973 and was a West All-Star. In 1975 he returned to Birmingham as a member of the World Football League’s Birmingham Vulcans. That fall he began a three-year NFL career with the Chicago Bears.

Musso was inducted into the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes Hall of Fame in 1971, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2007 he was awarded the Legend of Birmingham Award during the Papa Bowl at Legion Field.

Business & Ministry Leader

After retiring from football, Musso became president of the Schreiner-Musso Trading Co., a commodities firm serving as an independent trader at the Chicago Board of Trade.

Musso served in urban ministry, working with underprivileged youth. He served on the local and national boards of the youth ministry groups Young Life and Kids Across America.

He and his wife, Tanner, have four sons and one daughter.

About the University of Mobile

The University of Mobile is a Christ-centered university with a vision of “Higher Education for a Higher Purpose,” founded to honor God by equipping students for their future professions in an environment where they are known. Located 10 miles north of Mobile, Alabama, on a campus of over 880 acres, the university offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in over 75 academic programs.The University of Mobile was founded in 1961 and is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention.

For information about the University of Mobile, areas of study, admissions and more, visit, connect with UM on social media @univofmobile, or call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.