While attending the University of Alabama, Palmer played for the Alabama Crimson Tide football from 1991 to 1993, where he wore jersey No. 2 and earned the nickname "The Deuce." He was recruited to play wide receiver, but his athletic abilities permitted him to fill a variety of roles. He often took snaps directly under center and ran to the right side of the line, making him one of the first "wildcat" quarterbacks. Palmer became the team's first 1,000-yard receiver in a single season. Following his junior season, Palmer was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, for which he finished third in the voting.
He caught 102 passes in three seasons for 1,611 yards, a 15.8-yard average per catch, with 11 touchdowns. He rushed 86 times for 598 yards and a touchdown, averaging 7 yards per carry. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 260 yards, an average of 13 yards per catch, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He returned 83 punts for 865 yards and four touchdowns and ran back 36 kickoffs for 841 yards.
Palmer chose not to return to Tuscaloosa for his final season of college eligibility, and turned pro after the 1993 season.
Palmer was a second-round pick (40th overall) for the Minnesota Vikings in the 1994 NFL Draft. Palmer spent seven seasons (1994-2001) in the NFL, all with the Vikings. His career highlights include leading the league in punt returns during the 1995 season. For his career he returned two punts and one kickoff for touchdowns.