Kirby Smart first met Nick Saban as a Florida State graduate assistant during the Senior Bowl in Mobile, kicking off a now 2-decade old relationship.

Saban eventually hired Smart as a defensive backs coach at LSU in 2004. After Smart became Georgia’s running backs coach in 2005, the two reunited in the NFL in 2006 when Saban was head coach of the Miami Dolphins, with Smart eventually joining Saban’s staff at Alabama and remaining there until becoming the head coach at Georgia.

And Saban’s influence on the Bulldogs program — as well as the mutual respect between the two men — is unmistakble.

“There’s a lot of respect both ways,” Smart said on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta on Thursday while discussing the retirement of Saban. “I make it a point to tell him how much I appreciate what he’s done for the game and for other coaches. He’s done a lot for the game of football.”

Smart mentioned being exposed to Saban’s work ethic and high standards, standards that Saban himself strove to meet.

“Nobody in his business works as hard as he does. He demands a lot of his staff, but he does it himself. I have respect for that,” Smart said. “I know how hard it is to do it at that level for a long time. He’s accomplished that.”