Alabama fans—mainly little kids—waited in line to get a glimpse, a picture and autographs from some of their favorite players at the Nick's Kids Luncheon Thursday.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron, running back Blake Sims, center Barrett Jones, defensive end Quinton Dial, defensive back Dee Milliner and long snapper Carson Tinker (clad in red pants), sat at a long table and made hundreds of kids' days.
One kid was even invited around the table to stand next to Jones for a picture. Afterwards, he put his hands up in the year and shouted, "Yes!" There's nothing quite like seeing a kid's face light up after he meets his favorite player, is there?
Tables were set all around the room in the North end zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Those in attendance ate Full Moon BBQ and Dippin' Dots, and afterward listening to a few speeches, got to take their picture with Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Every year, Nick's Kids, the official charity of Nick and Terry Saban, holds a luncheon to distribute a majority of funds generated during the fiscal year to deserving organizations that aid the needs of children and families in the Alabama community. This year, Nick's Kids will distribute $415,644 to over 100 organizations.
The Sabans started the non-profit charity in 1998 during their time at Michigan State. A majority of the Saban's outside income, such as television commercials, speaking engagements and other appearances is given directly to the Nick's Kids Fund.
The charity has a core group of 100 members who donate annually the organization.
Since arriving in Tuscaloosa, the total amount of donations distributed by Nick and Terry and the Nick's Kids Fund is north of $2.5 million, including over $1 million that was distributed to tornado relief from the storms on April 27, 2011.
"Nick's kids is not about me," Saban told a group of media members before the luncheon began. "No man stands as tall as when he stoops down to help a child is what we've built this on. This is my favorite day of the year to be with all these people and to help all these kids. Serving other people is probably one of the most important things any of us could do."
Nick's Kids partnered with Habitat for Humanity to start the "14 for 14" home building project after the tornado last year. It was originally the "13 for 13" project to honor every national title Alabama had won, but after beating LSU in January, the project added another house.
Currently 10 of the 14 homes have been completed and the final four are expected to be finished this month.
After thanking the media for coming and talking about his charity, Saban was asked some questions regarding the upcoming season, as the players report for duty today and begin fall camp tomorrow.
Saban said that all his players are expected to report today except for one who has an issue with his NCAA eligibility. Saban did not name the player, but all fingers point to incoming freshman offensive lineman, Brandon Hill.
"We are still trying to sort through that and don't know when it is going to be resolved," Saban said.
This morning before the luncheon, the first USA Today/Coaches' Poll of the season came out and had Alabama ranked No. 2 behind LSU. But Saban doesn't think anything of the rankings, especially at this time of year.
"You're always flattered when your team or program gets recognized on a national basis, but you know and I know it means nothing in terms of what this team has been able to accomplish and what this team can do," he said. "Nobody really knows who the best teams are, that's why we play the games."
When the Crimson Tide won the national championship in 2009, the returning squad had a bit of a hangover the following season. So has this year's team shed its 2011 skin?
"We turned the page on last year's football season two days after the [national championship] game," Saban said. "The identity of this team is going to get created by what this team does. What we did last year is not going to help us be successful this year, it's going to create a target for us because everyone is going to shoot for you when you're at the top and this team needs to understand that.
"Success does one of two things to you: It makes you feel entitled, makes you feel like you don't have to continue to persevere, or you get addicted to success and want to do more and are willing to work more and hopefully that's what this team is going to do."
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