McKinley Crone came back to Alabama, and now she’s a Crimson Tide legend

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – In early 2020, Alabama goalkeeper McKinley Crone was in her kitchen. She had recently decided to take her talents elsewhere after a stint playing with the University of Oklahoma Sooners. At that moment, her destination wasn’t quite clear — but soon, it would be. 

She was on the phone with her mother when Tuscaloosa called. Crone’s mother, who graduated from the University of Texas, knew McKinley had to take it. 

“That’s Alabama. Hang up with me and answer the phone right now,” she told her daughter.  

Head coach Wes Hart was calling, and he suggested she come visit. One week later, she was in Tuscaloosa. She found herself enamored with Alabama, calling it incredible and saying she loved it a lot. The Crimson Tide had its new goalkeeper. 

“Other schools didn’t have a chance,” she said. 

Fast forward to Crone’s last season at Alabama, and she’s a conference champion.  

In 2022 alone, she helped shut out half the teams on the conference regular season schedule. In 19 regular season matches, she allowed a mere 11 goals and shut out two ranked teams. With Crone as the last line of defense, the Crimson Tide completed a perfect conference regular season schedule to go with a spotless home mark.  

Along the way, she’s been a vocal leader, a source of consistency and one of the team’s best players. 

“I’m so grateful to have been just a part of this,” Crone said. “It’s just really cool to see the rewards finally coming through.” 

However, her playing in an Alabama uniform this season wasn’t always a done deal. 

“Last year actually was set to be my last year,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to take my sixth season, and was content with that, and then we finished the year doing so well for the program. I’m just so grateful that I [came back] because being a part of this team has been the most successful college experience, and everything I’ve wished for out of college soccer.” 

She cited Hart as a major factor in her decision to return and continue the momentum built in 2021.  

“He was a big reason why I decided to come back for my sixth year,” Crone said. “I wanted to play for him. Who wouldn’t?” 

Her teammates, whom she’s constantly supported, also played into the choice to come back.  

“This has been by far my favorite college soccer team that I’ve played on in my six years, and not just because we’re winning. One of our core values is family, and it’s so true about this team. This is truly my family,” she said.  

The fan favorite now holds the Alabama record for career wins and earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week twice during the regular season. Her mindset underscores that of an Alabama team that has proven difficult to score on. 

“Honestly, this goes across the whole field, just this killer mindset of ‘It’s not going in our goal, and good luck,’” she said.  

In the regular season, the Crimson Tide gave up just 11 goals. Crone had over 50 saves and 17 wins in 19 matches — a mere 0.58 goals against per game on average. Suffice it to say that scoring on Alabama has been a hard-luck proposition. 

The Crimson Tide carried a target on its back for much of league play after statement wins. The experienced Crone wasn’t fazed. 

“I think it just continues to go back to doing our job. It doesn’t matter what team we’re playing. If we are ourselves, we can get the job done,” she said.  

Crone’s competitive nature is part of what earned her her fan-favorite status. She said it is all in the name of playing for something bigger. 

“My freshman year, I was told that we’re out on the field to play for something bigger than ourselves. For me, it was ‘What can I do to showcase that?’ I just want to make a positive impact on the community, the future female athletes and young athletes that are out there, and [I] just hope I can be a positive role model for them.” 

Fans in attendance at the Alabama Soccer Complex — and 2022 has brought in lots of fans — can often see Crone interacting with the Alabama faithful, taking pictures, giving high-fives and more.  

“This town really loves winners,” Crone said. “I am so grateful to be part of a team that gets to experience that.” 

She said she got emotional when she saw the turnout for the home regular season finale on Oct. 23 against the Florida Gators. An Alabama soccer record crowd of 1,882 watched the Crimson Tide seal the SEC regular season title. Many more were turned away, and many of them stuck around in spite of that. 

“Oh my gosh, I got emotional walking out onto the field, just looking out and seeing the people that were in the stands, but also the people that got turned away and they stayed. To see that means so much to us and this program,” Crone said. “Thank you everyone who has shown any kind of support this year. It really does mean the world to us.” 

“The energy that they bring lives in us on the field,” she said.  

Some of this, of course, can be attributed to Crone, who is one of the more active athletes on social media at Alabama. Like her play on the field, this serves a larger purpose. 

“We’re just as much people as we are athletes, and what you put on social media matters. We’re all just trying to make a positive impact on the community and those who can see it,” she said.  

Setting a good example is important to her, on and off social media, and in and out of competition. 

“I looked up to other athletes when I was younger. I watched them play. The way they carried themselves on and off the field was so poised, and they were good people. To me, that’s the most important thing: Be a good person. At the end of the day, soccer is just a platform for me to be able to share what a good person looks like.” 

As the Crimson Tide has continued to climb, one consistent message is that there is no satisfaction until the ultimate goal is achieved.  

“I have a feeling there’s going to be some more things that we’re going to be celebrating,” Crone said. 

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]