Despite the doubters, he’s been the best story in college football this season.

They questioned if he could play quarterback at this level for the University of Alabama.

He responded by winning the starting job.

They didn’t respect his arm strength.

He had touchdown passes on the first offensive play against both Florida and Tennessee, and has posted comparable numbers to his predecessor.

They didn’t think he could win on the road.

Blake Sims dramatically won at the toughest venue in college football, LSU.

“I felt good as a quarterback,” the fifth-year senior said after helping lead the 20-13 overtime victory against the Tigers on Nov. 8. “I knew my team had my back, but that just shows other people why I think they way I think. They played their hearts out.

“When they got on the plane, on the way back to Tuscaloosa, everybody was knocked out from being so tired. When you’re in the air and you look back on the plane and everybody’s tired, you feel good, because you know everybody gave it their all.”

This from there the guy who first tried safety, wide receiver and running back before finally becoming a quarterback for the Crimson Tide, and as CBS announcer Vern Lundquist would say “Oh my,” has he made the most of the opportunity.

In the neutral-site opener in Atlanta he set program records for most completions and attempts by a quarterback in his debut as a starter, going 24 of 33 for 250 yards, as Alabama defeated West Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.

Sims recorded the second-most passing yards in a single game in program history, 445 against Florida, trailing only Scott Hunter’s 484 in 1969. It was also the most ever by at Alabama quarterback at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Against Tennessee, he helped teammate Amari Cooper set the Crimson Tide record – one of many for him this fall – for receiving yards in a single game, and the quarterback’s 43-yard touchdown was the team’s longest rushing play of the season.

“I’m not surprised at all because me and Blake having been working since the spring on our timing and everything like that,” Cooper said about the real secret to Sims’ success this season.

He put in the time, he put in the effort, and when training camp came around in the fall, and Sims was in the midst of a high-profile quarterback competition, things started to really click.

“There has been a chemistry there that Blake’s been around these guys for a long time,” Coach Nick Saban said. “They know him well. He’s performed well. I think their confidence in him has gone up and I think that when the leaders on the team are good people and they play effectively, I think it enhances their ability and capacity to affect other people, which is what leadership was all about.”

“I think he’s made a lot of improvement.”

Perhaps so many people had a hard time believing that Sims would do so well was that he hardly took the conventional route to the starting lineup. Yes, he was considered a top-notch prospect out of Gainesville, Ga., but not even the recruiting services knew which position he would end up playing at the collegiate level. So they listed him as “athlete.”

For years the only other thing one heard about Sims were the regular comments by his teammates like, “He’s a very good guy,” as senior wide receiver DeAndrew White recently said.

But starting quarterback? At Alabama?

The Crimson Tide’s quarterbacks had been well established under Saban, with AJ McCarron starting all 40 games over the previous three years, and before him Greg McElroy started 27. Factor in John Parker Wilson and those three had accounted for every start since the 2006 season opener.

Yet long before Sims started winning over the fans and media, which with some is still an ongoing process, he first had to do so in his own locker room. While those on the outside viewed the pairing as something unlikely, especially after he struggled on A-Day, the final scrimmage of spring, his teammates started to fall in line.

Fueled by the critics Sims kept plugging along, but it wasn’t until Alabama was a couple games into the schedule that the competition was deemed over. Along the way the dual-threat posted some very impressive numbers – especially in passing efficiency and third-down conversions – while Alabama made a run at being part of the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.

“I think that trust is the big, big thing for us,” he said, while another statement in early November might have best exemplified his rise: “We’re not trying to do things until we do it right. We know it’s going to be that one play that’s going to win us the game. We want to be the ones that win that play, trying to do things until we can’t do it wrong.”

Meanwhile, nearly of the teams that were considered the Crimson Tide’s primary competition were led by returning starters, including Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Dak Prescott, Everett Golson, Bo Wallace, Bryce Petty, Trevone Boykin and Nick Marshall.

“We’re encouraged by the way he played in this, he’s worked hard to improve and has performed this year for our team,” Saban said. “He’s done an outstanding job, is a good leader and is a fine person.

“But I also think that the challenge that we have with Blake is to keep him focused on the things that he needs to do to distribute the ball, execute the offense and take what the defense gives him – and when he has done that he has been phenomenal and we’ve been very good offensively. When we haven’t, we’ve struggled. That’s the key to the drill.”

That’s why Sims’ performance against LSU was so important, when he did something that he saw McCarron pull off two years earlier, lead a clutch drive at Death Valley and then head home with a potentially career-changing win. With no time outs he completed 4 of 6 passes while leading a 47-second drive down to the 10-yard line, with Adam Griffith making the field goal to send the game into overtime, and subsequently threw the game-winning touchdown pass to White.

“It was big,” said Sims, who will play his final home game Saturday against Auburn (7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN). “It let the team know that we’re capable of doing anything that we need to do. It showed that we’ve got the poise to, when times were going rough for us the whole game, when it’s time for the clutch time we can pull it through.”

But specifically the comeback showed Sims could do it. Just about all of the other key players who contributed had the same roles for the Crimson Tide in 2013, and some were there in 2012 when Alabama went on win the national championship.

Those seasons Sims was on the bench, learning and waiting his turn – a turn that most believed would never come – which he more than earned.