The origin of the mascot dates back to 1930. On October 8, a sportswriter wrote about the previous weekend's Alabama-Ole Miss football game. The writer, using the flair for the dramatic common in sportswriting at the time, wrote that an anonymous fan yelled out "Hold your horses, the elephants are coming!" upon hearing the rumble of the first team coming on the field. The name stuck throughout what became a national championship season and beyond.
Melford Espey, Jr., then a student, was the first to wear an elephant head costume to portray the Crimson Tide's mascot in the early 1960s. Espey later became a university administrator and Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant asked him to take responsibility when student groups asked to resurrect the costumed mascot in the late 1970s.
The "Big Al" mascot officially debuted at the 1980 Sugar Bowl, when the 1979 Alabama Crimson Tide football team beat the Arkansas Razorbacks. Student Hugh Dye earned the honor to bring "Big Al" back to life in New Orleans , followed by Kent Howard and Maury Smith to kickoff the inaugural 1980 season and roam the sidelines. "Big Al" celebrated his first year with Bear Bryant's 300th win against Kentucky and a win against Baylor in the 1981 Cotton Bowl. Since then, the mascot has been a fan favorite for the Tide fans. As the Crimson Tide does not have a logo on their helmets or uniforms, Big Al's likeness appears on much of the merchandise.
Big Al was named by student vote. At the time of the vote, there was a popular DJ on campus by the name of Al Brown, who DJ'd many of the largest campus parties, including those hosted by members of the football team. As a result of DJ Al's popularity, a campaign was started on campus to name the mascot after him, and that campaign succeeded at the polls.