Alabama Crimson Tide Football – You know, growing up in the state of Alabama. . . It’s just bred in us from the day that we’re born. And, it’s a beautiful thing. From the early days of Alabama, it was all about winning. It’s a unique environment in the fact there’s not a pro team close by. College football in state Alabama IS pro football.
The standard is always the same. It’s not that mediocre is gonna be good enough. It’s that the fans, the players, everybody expects you to be perfect. As a player, it’s one of the things that really excites you about coming to play. It’s 365 days a year, the fans are into it. They definitely letting us know when we weren’t performing up to par. Verne Lundquist: “Auburn playing with two men, 20 yards downfield. . . “There’s the pass. . . intercepted. ”
Alabama Crimson Tide Football
“That should do it. “In 2006, I think it was. . . It was a tough year. We were still just coming off probation. . . So, we didn’t have a lot of scholarships. I think a lot of people forget that. We had some time where we couldn’t even go to a bowl game. So, that definitely affected recruiting andeverybody’s sense of what Alabama was in the past was kind of morphing into something new. Mainly, there had just been a series of losers in that job. You go back, uh, to post Gene Stallings. . . and Mike DuBose. . . and Dennis Franchione. . .
Mike Price, Mike Shula. It was just a collection of misfits, and. . . Ultimately. . . The inconsistency of the programLed to a malaise, which led to mediocrity. It wasn’t where everybody expected us to be. The players, the coaches, the fans, I think everybody, um, expects and holds Alabama to adifferent standard. So, it was tough those first few years playing when weweren’t performing as we thought, and as everybody expected that we should be. We all had an exit meeting with Coach Shula, you know. . . Saying, “hey”– you know — “See you guys for spring ball. . .
“And then, it was a kind of a. . . emergency meeting not too long after that, that took place. And, someone else came in and gave the announcementthat, you know, Coach Shula had been fired. There was a lot of uncertainty, and. . .
As a player, you know, it’s kind of the unknown. You come to school thinking oneguy’s gonna coach and then another guy shows up. Originally Saban was the first choice. . . And then, he. . . Famously said he wasn’t taking the Alabama job. “I guess have to say it. I’m not gonna be the Alabama coach. “”What-what-what-what. . . “”I shouldn’t even have to comment on this. “”I think I’ve said this over, and over, and over again. “You know, he had only been with the Miami Dolphins a couple seasons. Miami media basically bullied and pressured him to stay in a way that was obscenein some stance. . . in some circumstances. And, what happened then was really interesting. They offered the job to Rich Rodriguez. Alabama fans were hardly ecstatic. . .
But, they agreed he was okay, and then when he turned it down. . . It was truly one of the worst moments I can ever remember in a 30-year career in Alabama. It’s like nobody wanted this job. I know they have rabid fans in Baton Rouge, but I don’t think there are anyother fans in the nation that fall all over their coach the way Tide fans do. Here’s the picture of the day. Saban swallowed up by a female fanwho plants a big wet one on his cheek. When Nick Saban finally arrived it was. . . uh. . . Elvis, Moses parting the Red Sea. . . and. . . )and–and–andjust anything else you want to throw intothat characterization, all wrapped into one. That process of him coming andhaving been successful at LSU. . . having been successful at Michigan State. . .
It had instant credibility the players. I mean I didn’t think that–that he would take the jobconsidering he’s at the highest level coaching in the NFL. . . To me it just seemed like a–a fairy tale. It gives me great pleasure to introduce the next coach of the Crimson Tide. . . Nick Saban. )I remember saying that morning on a TV show in Birminghamthat I felt Nick Saban was good enough to win a National Championship in four yearsand the person interviewing me looked at me like, “Are you out of your mind?”That’s how bad the program was. Nobody could think in terms of national championships. . . of course, I was wrong. Expectations. I know there’s tremendous expectations here for what you’re –what you would like to accomplish with this football programand
I can tell you that however you feel about it. . . I have even higher expectations for what we want to accomplish. I want to win every game we play. Tthat’s what Coach Saban’s always been about. . . You know, a place with high expectations. A place where you could play for a national championship every year. First thing we need to do is hire a good staff. I think having good people is the most importantthing you can do and having a successful program. With the staff we had,we understood right away, you know, what we were charged with. . . Because, you know, not saying anything bad about the previous staff. . . But it was just different. One of the things that makes Nick Saban so good is his supporting staff. . . His college coaches, his assistants are there to recruit. Lance wasn’t happy with the way the recruiting was set up. It wasn’t smooth, there wasn’t files or what video. . .
There wasn’t easy to access recruiting stuff. . . so, they came in and got him organized. They know who the top eighth graders are. The ninth graders, the tenth graders. . . You know they certainly don’t focus on one class. You know for Coach Saban, the formula is recruiting. It starts in state, and then it’s built within a five-hour radius. Fortunately, we had a lot of good playersin those next two upcoming years that we started on. And the 2008 class started in Mobile, Alabama. Julio Jones is faster than everybody. He jumps higher than everybody. He’s stronger than everybody. He’s bigger than almost everybody. People knew how good he was because he was a freak.
There’s no doubt that was a top target for Nick Saban. I’m gonna make my decision by where I feel the most comfortableand where I felt like home at. So, I’m gonna be going to the University of Alabama. )Julio Jones was a–and Saban has said this. . . and others have. . . that it was one of the most significant announcements. . . Because that–that. . . like, broke the dam. Everybody in the office, you have a sense of urgency every dayon taking care of business and doing doing your job. And, well, Nick has this thing where he’s got change in his pocket.
So, when comes walking around the corner it’s kind of like a rattlesnake. You know, you walk around a rattlesnake, you start hearing those rattles. . . Well, when Coach is coming to see you. . . you can hear him jingling, coming down there. You know, the dead period right before signing daythat was like maybe, you know, five times an hour. He would walk in there,
“What’s up? Heard anything? Anything going on?”I said, “No, Coach. I think we’re in good shape. “It was easy to see, you know, Julio Joneswas gonna be a heck of a player at the University. So, he comes in and brings a dynamic that we hadn’t seen before. Obviously, one of the best receivers in the NFL today. But, at the time he was an 18-year-old freshman. He ran routes like he’d been there for years, and thenhad a burst of speed like like we had not seen. I hardly ever saw him lose a sprint in his group of running. He always wanted towin and be the first guy to cross the line. He was always staying after doingextra hard work and just the tough physical nature of him playing football. When it wasn’t sexy to be at Alabama, you know, Julio came in there and he putthe program on his back, and said be like me. And it lifted everybody else. That 2008 in-state group was the perfect mixture of talent top-to-bottom that acoach needed to turn around the program. You know, you look at Barrett Jones whowas the key to several Nick Saban teams. Initially, I wasn’t that interested in Alabama. I came to a camp here. I was being recruited by their staff. . . We didn’t away very impressed. And I was probably, honestly, leaning towards Florida. I went to Florida took a visit.
Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow hosted me. I thought they were gonna win a lot of games and then everything changed, obviously. Alabama got a new coach. Nick Saban called me up one of his first weeks on the job. He didn’t necessarily promise that I was going to play or makeany outlandish statements. He really just, almost challenged me.
He said, “Come to Alabama and you’ll have an opportunity to play against the very best. “Marcell Darius could be the defining moment in that class because here’s a kid that wasranked a 3-star. Not because of talent. . . we were all told is that he wouldnever have the grades to make it. Got into school, you know, the guy ends up atop five pick in the draft. Great in the national championship game. I mean, he was leading the the big guys in the 110 runs that we were doing week in and week out. He would be the first guy every day. . . and then he’s a freshman. So, that that spoke volumes to me as a senior watching him do that. Uh, you know, Dont’a Hightower. . .
I mean we had. . . The list goes on. Mark Barron was another guy, just like Julio. . . A quiet kid, really confident his own abilities, took care of his business. Relentless competitor. Again, had all the traits of what a champion isAnd not only a champion as an individual, but someone that the rest of the team can grow behind. You know, it’s every coach’s belief that a good player can become a great player. . . But a great player will lift those around them to be good players. And that’s ultimately what guys like Julio, and Mark Barron, and some of those other guys did. I want to win every game we play. I’ve never gone out to play a game,we’ve never gone out to play a game where we didn’t want to win. . .
And it wasn’t important to win, and we didn’t focus on winning and put all our energy into winning. A lot of coaches make promises, and they pretty much all say thatyou know, you’re gonna come here and be great and–and it’s going to be an epic dynasty. But, for whatever reason, when he said it – you believe it. Everybody’s on the same page.
There’s one message there’s one way of thinking. Everybody embraces the grind. Take your expectations and bridge them into theprocess of what it takes to be successful. I’m not going to talk about what we’re gonna accomplish. . . We’re going to talk about how we’re going to do it. He’s very confident in–in his process, which is very comprehensive. It deals with performance and academics. . . Their performance off the field, their performance on the field. . .
Their performance in practice. . . Their performance in the games. . . How to behave. When you’re in a team meeting with 85 playersand all their eyes are on you. . . then, if there’s a–if there’s a weakness in the armor, the players can sense itif you don’t feel sold on what you’re talking about. . . and talk with a boldnessand a confidence in what you’re saying, that meant this will work. He talked about ‘the process’ and at that point, it was the process of turning around Alabamaand turning them back into a dynastyand, uh, you know doing the little things the right wayand attention to detail. . and we had a mentality of toughness and of intensityand there was a standard that was set. . . anything short of that was not gonna be tolerated.
A moment ) that I’ll never forget with Coach Saban. . . We were doing, uh, 4th quarter drills. . . we’re in the indoor facility, we’re running around, going crazy. . . and we’re dead tired. And, just so happened, my shorts happened to be a little bit too big. . . )And Coach Saban saw that they were sagging a little bit. . . And he ripped me. I mean, he jumped on me pretty tough. And, that was like my first interaction ofTHIS is who Coach Saban is, you know. . .
You heard the stories of how hard he is. . . How tough he is. . . but you really didn’t understand who he wasuntil he gave it to you. But, it was great to have a coach thatwas particular about, you know, the detailsbecause I think that changed the atmosphereand the culture of our team. You know, and that’s what, you know I thinkchampionship programs at every level. . . I think they understand the factthat you got to look at everything in the organization, all right, becauseyou never know what it’s going to take to win. You never know what’s going to cost you a game. Chris Stewart: “Here’s the ball game for Alabama. . . “”4th down and 6. . . “”Wilson’s pass deflected. . . incomplete. . . “”And Louisiana Monroe will take over. . .
“When we lost the ULM game in Bryant-Denny, that’s the lowest that we had ever been. Chris Stewart: “And the Warhawks, coming away with one of the biggest wins of their careers. “Saban postgame: “It may be 9/11 which, you know, sort of changed. . . um. . . “”the spirit, you know, of America””relative to a catastrophic event. “”You know, Pearl Harbor got us ready for””you know, World War II or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event””And, I don’t think anyone. . . um. . . in this room would have bet that, you, know we would lose””back-to-back games to Mississippi State or ULM. . . no disrespect to either one of those teams.
“Those were the critical games that helped us sell ourmessage to guys about no shortcuts, making sure every details taken care of,prepare the best you can every day, and have the right mindset of being a relentless competitor. That 2007 season, as tough as it was losing some of the games that we did. . . It’s one of those necessary evils that you have to go through that. You have to learn how to walk, before you can run. . .
And, I think that’s definitely what that season was. That was the moment that I know, like. . . This whole entire, you know, University is about to change and atmosphere is changing here. A big thing that happened in the off-season, next season as the seniors,We got together and made sure that, you know, no matter what. . . That nobody was gonna see us break under the demands that Coach Saban was putting on us. That we would continue to push through, and everybody would follow our lead. You knew it was changing. You didn’t know when, you didn’t know how quickly the championships would come. . . But, you knew that Alabama — as a punching bag and a laughingstock–Those days were over.