The church stood about 300 yards outside of the Bama Air terminal, down the narrow road leading to the airstrip where Nick Saban landed a few minutes before four o'clock Wednesday afternoon to hundreds of Alabama fans welcoming his arrive to Tuscaloosa.
There is an overused cliché is that college football in the South is like a religion, but Saban's arrival did have a quality of religious zeal among the fans gathered about. One woman, appearing inebriated, shouted "Thank you Jesus, and thank you Nick Saban" as she shoved through the crowd to hug the coach (not realizing she might have been coming on a little too strong.)
She was quickly pried away from Saban's neck by a state trooper providing security for the new Tide coach, however, and the rest of the contingent of Alabama fans at the airstrip were more subdued.
The crowd began waving at the jet and cheering as it descended to its landing, and remained mostly orderly while cheering the coach's arrival. Upon deplaning, Saban shook hands with one of the airport's grounds crew, and shunned the solitude of hopping into a crimson SUV and driving away, instead walking over to greet the crowd of fans and media gathered to witness his arrival.
"We're glad you're here, Nick!"
"Way to go, Nick!"
"Roll Tide Nick Saban!"
He waded through the crowd outside before entering the terminal. A flat screen television hanging 10 feet to his left was broadcasting his arrival live on the air. Through the throng, all that could be heard was "I'm glad to be here… I'm happy to be here."
He was escorted into the vehicle afterwards where at least six motorcycles and a handful of police cars and vehicles carrying VIPs were escorted into Tuscaloosa. It appeared the motorcade was indirectly responsible for at least one accident, as three cars sat on highway 69 in the opposite northbound lane, wrecked, apparently from an accident as someone was trying to get a better look as the new coach of the Crimson Tide passed.
"This is like winning national championship," Alabama student Daniel Murdock said as he waited in the group for Saban's plane to arrive. "This is the biggest coaching hire since Bear Bryant."
Other fans perched across the balcony of the airport terminal across the land of runways to watch the plane come in, and the gates to enter the landing area were locked some time before the plane landed due to overcrowding in the area. The Tuscaloosa News smartly capitalized, too, selling Special Edition copies with Saban's photo and the headline "SABAN TIME!" stripped across the top for 50 cents.
Saban's official introductory press conference will take place Thursday morning in Tuscaloosa, but it seemed safe to say that his first day on the job as the head coach of the University of Alabama football team got off on the right foot with Tide fans in Tuscaloosa.