Welcome to G.O.A.T. Week at Saturday Down South. Join us as we go deep with some of the “Greatest of All-Time” from SEC football history, including Bear Bryant, Herschel, the best running back duo, the best starting lineup, the Head Ball Coach and more.

Before the wins, before the SEC titles, before the national championships, there was a process. Nick Saban began implementing it the day he arrived in Tuscaloosa — and Alabama football — college football — has never been the same.

It was a cold November day in 2007, and as a light snow was dusting the ground at Flint Bishop Airport, Gary Lee, the head coach at Flint (Michigan) Southwestern Academy, was searching for Nick Saban.

The airport wasn’t large, and Lee began to ask if anyone had seen the first-year Alabama coach. “Oh, he’s over there,” someone said, pointing to a private jet.

There was little fanfare, but to Lee, it was as if Elvis had arrived in Flint.

“First of all, I was just stunned,” Lee recalled. “He was the first coach — and I’ve been dealing with a lot of coaches over the years — but no one ever came in a private jet.”

Lee walked over and introduced himself and the two men hopped in Lee’s vehicle. Just a few days prior, Lee had sent Saban a tape of one of his players. That player’s name was Mark Ingram.

So now Lee and Saban were in the car, traveling to Ingram’s house. Saban fielded several phone calls as Lee drove. Once inside the Ingram home, Saban sat down with members of his family and coach Lee. Lee had known Saban from Saban’s time at Michigan State, but he didn’t really know him, know him. Within minutes, Saban had captivated the whole room. There were no throw-pillow-like assurances, no fluff, no waxy, back-slapping words telling Ingram how great he was.

It was like that that winter. Living rooms from Brentwood, Tennessee, to Bunker Hill, West Virginia, were filled with the bulletin points of Saban’s message, of his staunch commitment to his players, and of the gemlike pride of Alabama football. And all of the above was delivered with unswerving confidence.

"Every coach tells you they are going to win, they are going to do special things. For whatever reason, when coach Saban told you that, I believed him. It was just the way he talked, the way he carried himself. I could tell he was going to win a lot of football games."
-- Former Alabama OL Barrett Jones

Barrett Jones remembers that same conviction in Saban’s voice when he made his recruiting presentation to the Jones family in their Memphis home in 2007. After enjoying a lasagna supper, Saban sat down and laid out The Process — his plan for how he was going to restore Alabama to its former glory. “He kind of invited me to be a part of something special,” Jones said. “I think that really appealed to me. (Alabama) was coming off a 4-8 year and a lot of frustrations. At the time, it was more of a leap of faith; you had to sort of buy into what he was talking about.

“Every coach tells you they are going to win, they are going to do special things. For whatever reason, when coach Saban told you that, I believed him. It was just the way he talked, the way he carried himself. I could tell he was going to win a lot of football games.”

Since then, Saban’s recruiting effectiveness and his ability to lure high-carat studs to Alabama has often been hailed, but the reason for said success has remained an enigma. What does he say to them? What makes Saban’s presentation so different? What is it about Saban’s message that is so attractive to 18 year-old athletes who could go anywhere?

While other coaches might guarantee playing time, dangling the carrot of immediacy in the faces of recruits, Saban offers an opportunity to compete. “He didn’t really promise anything, even though a lot of times new coaches will basically say anything to get you to come. That wasn’t really his style,” Barrett Jones said. “He didn’t say ‘You’re going to be a starter Day 1, the cupboard’s bare.’ Nothing like that. He just said, ‘Hey you’re going to get a chance to come and compete for a spot and play with the best.'”

Therefore by issuing a challenge instead of a gift, Saban seems to attract those who want to compete at the highest level. “That appealed to my competitive nature,” Jones said. “There are so many competitive-natured people that end up playing for Alabama and I think that’s why — because of the way he recruits, because of the way he challenges you and just says, ‘Hey I’m not going to promise you anything, but I think you’re a good player … you’ll get a chance to play here and work hard.’ But nothing is guaranteed. Everything is earned.”

The second reason is his utter belief in The Process. Like a salesman fully bought-in to his product, Saban has faith in the system he is selling, and that conviction emanates in living rooms. Coach Lee says the most arresting aspect of Saban’s spiel was his voice.

“There’s something about his voice that just sort of mesmerizes you,” Lee said. “You could hear the passion in his voice. You could hear the love for what he was doing in his voice. It was sort of breathtaking. I don’t get taken by coaches that easily, but he was different. He made me want to go to Alabama, and I was 50!”

The first steps

Before Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in the winter of 2007, ‘Bama fans were Eeyoring around, lamenting the Tide’s hard luck existence, sick of losing to Mississippi State and bowling in Shreveport and all the accouterments that come with full averageness. Alabama football was like a lost Bedouin crawling across the broad expanse of the Sahara, dunes and scorched earth as far as the eye could see, no oasis for miles. But Saban, appearing like a desert cavalryman after a tense 38-day courtship, rescued the parched wanderer, saddled him on his horse, and brought him to paradise.

Nick Saban’s first press conference as Alabama’s head coach. Photo courtesy of University of Alabama Athletics.

After a shortened recruiting season in 2006-07 (Alabama still finished in the Top 10), Saban bore down for the 2008 class. He dispatched his ravenous lieutenants — Curt Cignetti, Lance Thompson and Kirby Smart — to scour the nation for the best high school prospects available. By the end, 32 signees came from 10 states: Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Texas and West Virginia. All told, the recruiting class — one that included Ingram, Barrett Jones, Marcell Dareus, Courtney Upshaw, Terrence Cody, Dont’a Hightower, Robert Lester, Mark Barron and Damion Square — boasted three 5-stars and 19 4-stars and provided the strength in personnel that brought Saban a national championship in only Year 3.

But the star of the whole cowboy show was Julio Jones. By his senior year, Jones was no secret, message boards filling up with speculation about where the great Julio would eventually land. Ron Ingram, writer for The Birmingham News, had touted Jones, the quiet athletic freak from Foley, Ala., as “the best wide receiver ever to come out of the state.” But as the final sharks of Texas Tech, Florida, FSU and Oklahoma closed in, Saban fished Jones out like a prized snapper.

Even the Alabama players admitted to their enthrallment with the Jones recruiting saga. “When they signed him, there was a lot of excitement around the building,” said former linebacker Chavis Williams, who played at Alabama from 2007-11. “He was the one that changed the whole program, to me, because him signing there opened doors for all possibilities. We signed arguably the No. 1 player in the nation. After that, the floodgates just opened.”

It was one thing to get players to campus; it was yet another to march into pits-of-hell-like venues and emerge with a win — something Alabama had not done consistently in quite awhile. In 2007, Alabama was competitive once again, but far from the expectations set out by fans, and Saban himself.

"When they signed him, there was a lot of excitement around the building. He was the one that changed the whole program, to me, because him signing there opened doors for all possibilities. We signed arguably the No. 1 player in the nation. After that, the floodgates just opened."
Former linebacker Chavis Williams on Julio Jones

Saban’s shock to the system was of such magnitude that players could feel plates of change shifting beneath them. Some bought in, some didn’t. “Definitely, in some cases, there was a clear difference of guys who came in there sort of expecting to be that way and guys that were sort of grandfathered in,” Barrett Jones said. “(Coach Saban) had pushback for the way they started to do things. You could definitely feel the winds were starting to change.”

The separator was practice. Under Saban, it was much harder. Jones does not have fond memories of his first practice at Alabama, painting a bleak picture of being bussed to the stadium and then the brutal heat of the field and the rigid standard of the calisthenics. He remembers the first drill where players were tested with 16 110-yard sprints. That would have been enough for lactic acidosis, but strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran added the following caveat: You cannot bend over.

“We started running, and about number 10, somebody bent over,” Barrett Jones said. “Coach Cochran said that one didn’t count. We ended up running 28 110s that day and everyone was throwing up. Coach Cochran said we never want to have our body language bending over like we are beaten.”

By the time Julio Jones arrived, the return of solid veterans and an infusion of young talent made 2008 a year of promise. The Tide flexed its muscle in the season opener against Clemson — a solid 34-10 win. Only four weeks later, No. 8 Alabama faced its first major SEC test on a September night in Athens. At Sanford Stadium, Georgia fans, all savage in their black shirts, appeared to be dressed for a funeral. The only problem was that on this night, Alabama was the only undertaker in the building.

The Tide had to contend with Georgia’s talented trio of QB Matthew Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno (whom announcer Todd Blackledge called the best in the country), and WR A.J. Green. Saban’s plan was heavy on discipline, physicality and Julio Jones.

On the first drive, Alabama called the run on 8 occasions, stuffing the ball into the gut of RBs Glen Coffee and the new guy from Flint. Most of Alabama’s ground plays were fearless, defense-dispiriting runs made between the tackles followed by a dink-and-dunk game with Jones. By halftime, the game was all but over, as the Crimson Tide led 31-0. Stafford led a furious second-half charge to pull within 2 scores, but Bama eventually sealed the win over the No. 3 Dawgs, 41-30.

It wasn’t yet October, and Alabama had already defeated two Top 10 teams. For the players, the Georgia game served as a major confidence builder. “I think that was the moment when we sort of believed, for the first time, that (The Process) was working,” Barrett Jones said. “That was sort of the first time we were like, ‘OK, we can play with anybody.”

The Death Valley of adversity

October has been good to Alabama over the past decade. But October is often met with a sense of dread as November — and LSU — looms behind it. On Nov. 8, 2008, when undefeated and No. 1 Alabama arrived in Death Valley, LSU’s animus toward its former coach had reached a deafening roar. Distractions came at the team like arrows. Prior to the game, signs dotting Baton Rouge burned Saban in effigy, and after someone leaked Alabama QB John Parker Wilson’s cell phone number, he began to receive calls at all hours of the night. Linebacker Cory Reamer, who said it felt like “the whole state of Louisiana” showed up when the Alabama rolled into town, recalled LSU fans shaking the bus when the team arrived at Tiger Stadium.

But the great neutralizer amid all the insanity was the steadiness of Reamer’s coach. While other, far-too-fragile coaches might not have been able to contain their emotion, Saban maintained the same level demeanor. “He was calm, cool, and collected the entire week of practice,” Reamer remembered. “He never wavered. He never gave any extra hoo-rah because it was LSU. I think it was the first time we understood how good he was at getting us to focus on our jobs and doing your part and not worrying about all these external distractions and all these things you can’t control.”

Nick Saban is 9-3 vs. LSU, the biggest victory coming in the January 2012 BCS Championship Game.

Saban’s true genius was that — even though it was a big game for Alabama football and certainly one for him personally — he never elevated the significance of the game, even when he had great impetus to do so. “The way we were mentally trained and prepared, it really didn’t change one ounce from UT-Chattanooga to LSU,” Barrett Jones said.

Psychologically, had Saban raised the bar, his players might not have felt that they could overcome such a significant hurdle. Even though it was LSU, even though they were the defending national champions, even though Saban had won a title there in 2003, even though they’d had a chokehold on Alabama for a great part of the 2000s, it was just another game.

But the emotion did spill out. After warming up, Alabama walked into the bowels of Death Valley for one final team meeting. There, Saban delivered a speech for the ages, the famous “Make His Ass Quit” speech.

"So I want everybody to think here for a second," Saban yelled. "How much does this game mean to you? 'Cause if it means something to you, you can’t stand still. You understand? You play fast! You play strong! You go out there and dominate the guy playing against you … and Make His Ass Quit! That’s our trademark. That’s our M.O. as a team. That’s what people know us as. Understand?"

After that charge, Saban led his team onto the smoke-filled field as the LSU faithful offered their chorus of disgust.

When the smoke cleared, it was Alabama’s day. Similar to the Georgia game, the Crimson Tide started fast: mixing runs with short passes to Julio Jones. After a Tide fumble on the goal line, LSU QB Jarrett Lee was intercepted by Rashad Johson, who returned the ball to the LSU 10. That set up ‘Bama’s first score, a 1-yard run by Wilson. After the touchdown, Wilson pantomimed a cell phone call and drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Although Wilson let the emotion get to him, in the end, discipline won. Alabama was only mildly penalized in a game in which the very nature of it called for chaos and disorder. There were miscues, however: a critical holding penalty near the end of regulation on a Wilson 32-yard run, a dropped slant by Julio Jones, and a blocked Leigh Tiffin 29-yard field goal attempt with :03 remaining, but for the most part, Alabama stuck to its knitting and believed in coach Saban’s philosophy.

After the Tiffin blocked kick, LSU had a truck-full of momentum heading into overtime. The score was tied at 21, night had fallen in Baton Rouge, and it was time for Alabama to shed the trepidation of a mediocre boy and become a man. Reamer said that Alabama’s mindset had matured in such a short interval that the team expected to win in overtime. “This is our game,” Reamer said. “We got to this point, there is no reason why we couldn’t finish it.”

LSU had the ball first. On the Tigers’ first possession, Johnson hauled in his second interception of the evening on an errant Lee pass in the back of the end zone.

Now Alabama could win on its ensuing possession. Wilson promptly went to work, hitting Jones (defended by Patrick Peterson) on a sideline pattern at the LSU 1. After a Coffee scramble, Wilson sneaked into the end zone for the game winning score.

After the game, Saban praised his team by emphasizing that key word — “Our players overcame a lot of adversity,” he said.

For Alabama, adversity did not come on a hill. Adversity came in a Valley.


The 2008 season did not conclude the way Alabama would have liked. A loss to Florida in the SEC Championship Game was gut wrenching, and the subsequent Sugar Bowl loss to Utah was, well, embarrassing. But those two games were used for motivation. Coming back, Alabama knew it had a good football team and it’d be damned if it let two silly losses spoil what was to come. “We were frustrated in the way we played against Utah, but everyone thought that we were on the right track, still,” said Barrett Jones, who moved into a starting role in 2009. “Nobody really got down … because they thought we were building something special.”

Heisman winner and two-time national champion quarterback Tim Tebow was back, Florida was still the team to beat, but Alabama salivated to get another shot at him, and them. In offseason workouts, Alabama had Florida in mind. By now, Saban had all but eliminated those who didn’t fully buy in, the 2008 recruiting class was contributing more, and the mental development of the players into Process-minded automatons was beginning to pay dividends.

Credit: USA TODAY Sports

One cannot suitably comment on the development of the Alabama program during this time without underscoring the contributions of Cochran, the strength and conditioning coach. Because Cochran sees the players probably more than any other coach, he often serves as the herald for Saban’s message, both daily and broadly. Sure, all the yelling can get annoying, but the constant boosting, the constant challenging, the constant redirecting toward the mission at hand is precisely what keeps Alabama football motivated. For Alabama, Cochran is much more than a bodybuilding coach.

Chavis Williams, a 3-star recruit out of Dora (Ala.) High School, developed in ways he didn’t think he could, and this was in large part to the structure of Cochran’s program.

“The thing that separates those guys down there,” Williams said, speaking of Cochran and his staff, “is the mental part that goes into strength and conditioning. It’s not only about getting bigger, stronger, faster, it’s training the mind from the neck up. Everybody’s good from the neck down, but what separates them is from the neck up. And they do an excellent job of, not only strength and conditioning, but the mental part as well.”


Ever the psychologist, Saban ordered small reminders to be strategically placed all throughout the athletic complex. These might be pillars of the program, quotes, or heart-shivering reminders of a loss. “You’re going to get a snack, you’re going in the training room … the quotes of him are everywhere. They’re everywhere, everywhere, everywhere,” Williams said.

Saban also brought in high-profile speakers, as well as a list of formers — a former drug addict, a former mobster, and a former inmate at Sing Sing — to speak to his team.

"I would take the grind that it took to get us to that point and the '09 season any day of the week over any of the seasons we had had in previous years where we go to bowl games in Shreveport. ... There was no joy playing in the day after Christmas in Shreveport, Louisiana, for whatever grasshopper bowl we played in."
Former Alabama linebacker Cory Reamer

To further stimulate the players’ frontal lobes and shape the human performance piece of the program, Saban enlisted the services of Trevor Moawad, a mental conditioning coach. Moawad, who underscores that he is not a sports psychologist, described his role as educational in nature; he served as a “support resource” who helped players with “a perspective as it relates to attitude, concentration, and the overall mindset of the group collectively and players individually.”

Moawad said that his job as part of the psychological architecture of the team was not to fix players who had problems — a bad throwing motion, lack of confidence — but rather to help players understand what it takes to be great. That players knew what it would take to succeed was the first hallmark of the Saban approach, and Moawad’s task was to help good players get better and to help really good players to become elite.

And all of this was accomplished in a program that played no favorites and was the poster child for survival of the fittest. “I think (Saban) has a really good way of making it very clear to a player what it will take to succeed, and then the formula is already proven to be successful, so either you’re going to follow that formula or you are not going to follow that formula,” Moawad said. “I’ve always believed that coach Saban, in my time with him, whether he was running Alabama, whether he was running Google, whether he was running Seal Team 7, he would be good at any of those areas, because he knows how to set an expectation and define The Process.”

Saban had long surmised that champion-like cognition was the single-most important ingredient to building a winning football team. Some suggest that the mastermind behind Saban’s Process was a professor at Michigan State named Lionel Rosen. According to an article by Michael Casagrande for AL.com, Rosen, an MD, was the “co-founder” of The Process and first suggested that Saban use Process-oriented thinking in a game against No. 1 Ohio State in 1998. Previous to this game, Saban’s record at Michigan State was a modest 24-20-1, and he was searching for something — anything — that might reverse his fortunes. After Dr. Rosen’s suggestion, Michigan State pulled a monumental upset, 28-24, in Columbus. The next season, the Spartans carved through the Big Ten with a 9-2 regular-season record. The season after that, Saban was in Baton Rouge, and not for a tour of the capitol.

Saban had been fine-tuning this Process for at least a decade when his team squared off against Florida in the 2009 SEC Championship Game. Again, Alabama was undefeated. Again, it was Florida. Again, the Tide would have to conquer Tebow. In games like this, in the Art of War, Saban knew for Alabama to win, the team’s collective mind would have to defeat Florida before the battle was ever fought.

Talent-wise, the teams were essentially even. Florida was loaded with Tebow, Aaron Hernandez, Riley Cooper, Joe Haden and Maurkice Pouncey; in total 9 Gators were taken in the 2010 NFL Draft. Alabama pounded No. 1 Florida 32-13 on Dec. 5, 2009 because of the mental discipline Saban’s team exhibited. “Everyone had to buy into not to be denied in this game,” Saban said after the game.

They weren’t.

After the clearing the Florida hurdle, beating Texas in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game felt like a mere formality. And in many ways, it was. There were probably few huzzahs as Alabama walked into the locker room of the most storied coliseum in college football. There was probably little pressure to be the first Alabama team to beat Texas. Besides, it didn’t matter what kind of personnel Texas boasted that day. What mattered was what Alabama did. That the team paid the price, seizing the discipline to be the best.

By then, it was already habit.

The Process Revealed

Reamer stood in the locker room in Pasadena after a 37-21 victory and wondered why he wasn’t more emotional. After all, Alabama, in securing the program’s first national championship in 17 years, had drowned the demons of a tumultuous decade. The victory was the culmination of years of gruel and sweat. But in an “a-ha” moment where the savage nature of The Process really hit home, Reamer realized that his mind had been conditioned to think about the next game. “I’m so programmed to be ready for the next opponent,” Reamer said, “my mind was already going to that same state that it had gone to for the previous 13 games.”

In only three calendar years, Saban had not only evicted the program from the slums of mediocrity, he had fundamentally reshaped his team’s psyche. The great geniuses who posited how Saban was going to do it failed to take into account Saban’s commitment to the development of the full human. And the great mystique of Saban’s effectiveness was that Alabama fans believed Saban was tasked with a rebuilding project. In a sense, that might have been true, but Saban wanted to build an entirely new house.

Saban was the architect, not the general contractor in charge of a redo. Of course, in any building project, one of the first considerations is the foundation, and many a coach has poured the concrete of the program using hard work, enthusiasm, overcoming adversity, and teamwork. These are not novel ideas. So what’s the difference?

Viewing from afar, one might be persuaded to believe that Saban’s system is complex. Rather, the converse is true. It’s the simplicity that’s truly fascinating.

Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The basic principle of The Process can be boiled down to one word: discipline. Discipline is the hub by which all spokes originate. It’s the discipline to believe that every play has a life of its own. It’s the discipline to forget a bad play. It’s the discipline to play one game at a time. It’s the discipline to avoid the hangover of a big win or a crushing loss. It’s the discipline to focus on the small details. It’s the discipline to eliminate distractions, clutter. It’s the discipline to concentrate on execution when there’s a tendency to gawk at the scoreboard. It’s the discipline to not settle for 98 percent right. It’s the discipline to take Kent State as seriously as Ohio State. It’s the discipline to train your mind.

And once you’ve achieved that, it’s the discipline to do it all over again.

Barrett Jones, a former All-American who owns three national championship rings, believes there is no “secret sauce” or “magic formula” to The Process. “The Process is basically being disciplined,” he said. “To work hard over and over and over. The reason we won at Alabama was not because of some magical system we had. We worked harder than anyone else. I really believe that. We really got out there every day and grinded and worked hard and sweated and bled.”

Jones believes a trickle-down effect occurred because of Saban’s commitment to discipline in his own working life. “Coach Saban is definitely the most disciplined human I’ve ever been around as far as staying focused, continuing to live life to a standard, never comparing to other people, never looking at a scoreboard, never focusing on results, always focusing on The Process,” Jones said.

Saban, in implementing The Process, had to first model it for others to see. Then, in turn, the players, like clones, could mirror Saban’s actions, thoughts and words.

Reamer’s a-ha moment in Pasadena was simply a reflection of that dynamic. Because Saban never took extended vacation on the shores of winning, implementing a 24-hour rule while others remain hung over on a four- or five-day bender, neither did the players who fully bought-in.

Further, it was important that Saban’s words matched his actions. In other words, that he was committed to the truth. No greater testimony of that commitment is made than in the recruitment of Mark Ingram. “Everything that he ever talked to me about when he was recruiting Mark was the truth,” coach Gary Lee said. “It was no shady stuff. It was straight up. What he told me was the way it unfolded. He’s not just a good coach. He’s a good guy.”

Saban’s focus on the journey, and his ability to motivate players to focus on the journey, was so intense that the destination seemed to find them, not the other way around. Of course there were goals and everyone wanted to win a championship, but paying the price to win a championship was the commitment of Saban and his players.

In setting the standard, Saban wanted his teams to understand that the standard is not the measured by the opponent; the standard is measured by Alabama. In implementing this mindset, he created a climate by which his players felt as though the opponent was not on the other side of the field. The opponent was Self.

Once that translated into success and The Process hit full steam, the sustainability of success became the focus. After the 2009 season, adversity arrived, not just in the form of capable opponents, but in the form of complacency. The 2010 season — a 10-3 “down year” — was representative of that fact, because Alabama had as much talent on that team as any other in the Saban era.

Alabama recovered, winning back-to-back national championships in 2011 and 2012 because of the leadership exhibited by players like Barrett Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and AJ McCarron, because everyone — coaches, fans, secretaries, academic advisors, support staff — was pulling in the same direction, and because Saban never took his foot off the pedal.

As Barrett Jones said, “It’s one thing if coach Saban is the only one who’s really beating the drum and laying out the principles of the organization, but I think in order for it to really be effective, you have to have leaders that embrace it who really enforce it. Our best players were generally our hardest workers and our leaders were the guys who were really going to enforce the standards and the principles of what we were doing.”

Was there joy in winning for the players? Of course. Was it hard? Of course. But the real fun, the real worth of The Process was seeing the fruits of their labor translate into success on the field.

Reflecting on the Alabama’s 2008 rise and the subsequent championship in 2009, Reamer said: “I would take the grind that it took to get us to that point and the ’09 season any day of the week over any of the seasons we had had in previous years where we go to bowl games in Shreveport. If we had more fun in ’06 and ’07 but it got us to Shreveport in our bowl game, I would trade it all day long for the ’08 and the ’09 seasons, no matter how miserable it is. There was no joy playing in the day after Christmas in Shreveport, Louisiana, for whatever grasshopper bowl we played in.

“That was the fun in it. We were winning ballgames and we weren’t having to go figure out why we just got beat by Louisiana-Monroe and the teams we weren’t able to beat, why we weren’t on the same level as them.”

Believe me, the Saban effect has trickled down to the fans, too. Saban’s teams have become so dominant, Alabama football so great, that the psychology of many fans from one game to the next is simply that of relief.

Ho hum, we beat LSU. Thank God that’s over. Thank God we didn’t lose. Onto the next one ….

Lastly, Saban believes in continuing education. He is always on the cutting edge, always thinking two steps ahead of everyone else, always on the forefront of thought. He understands that football is not a static game. It shifts. Newfangled offenses appear. Fads come and go. But learning never stops. Adjusting never stops. “I think that takes a certain amount of humility to want to change and want to learn new things,” Barrett Jones said. “He’s humble enough to still seek and ask for information.”

In the end, the marriage of Alabama’s tradition with Saban’s discipline, vision, aforethought, and superior ability to communicate was the stuff that dynasties are made of.

A final thought

After the 2009 championship, Austin Murphy’s cover piece for Sports Illustrated asked the question, “Can Anyone Stop Alabama?” above which an unusual word in bold letters appeared: DYNASTY. Murphy caught some flak because one championship does not a dynasty make. Now his use of the word seems prophetic. Alabama is as much of a dynasty as that of Ming or Ottoman.

Right now, there is an 11 year-old boy twirling a football in the backyard. He’s wearing his Alabama football jersey and he’s pretending he’s Tua Tagovailoa. He’s seen five national championships in his lifetime. As his mind travels to this foggy world of a dream, he drops back and throws the ball into a safe patch of grass. He raises his arms as if he just connected with DeVonta Smith. Hallelujah, he just beat Georgia.

Nick Saban has won 6 national titles, matching Bear Bryant, including 5 at Alabama.

This young man has absolutely no clue about the years of mediocrity the Alabama football program experienced before Saban arrived in 2007. He’s as spoiled as month-old milk. He doesn’t realize it, but the reason he’s happy is the discipline of Nick Saban.

You can hand someone the blueprints, but that doesn’t mean they can build the house. Just as no one better could have played Don Corleone in The Godfather than Marlon Brando, no one better could have been called to be the college football coach at Alabama than Nick Saban.

In the end, many have attempted to mimic Saban’s success. CEOs, real estate agents, magazine publishers, and fellow coaches want to learn his secrets. But a drastic few — if any at all — will achieve the kind of success Saban has achieved as head coach of the Alabama football team.

That’s because there are many imitators. There is only one Saban.

Al Blanton is the owner of Blanton Media Group, based out of Jasper, Ala. He serves as the Editor and Publisher of Hall & Arena and 78 Magazine.

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