Former Tiders Have Good Feelings

Among those watching the formal introduction of Nick Saban as Alabama's new head football coach were a number of men who had played a part in building the Crimson Tide tradition as Bama players. And those men were impressed with the new leader of Bama football.

Following the introduction of Nick Saban as Alabama's head coach, those players attending the event in the Mal Moore Athletics Administration Building, shared their impressions.

Tommy Brooker, an end and placekicker on Coach Paul Bryant's first national championship team in 1961, said, "I'm impressed. I listened to the words and think he was careful of how he said things. It came from him. It wasn't manufactured. It sounded real. Tears came to my eyes because it reminded me of Big Papa. He also answered some stupid questions very intelligently. I was also pleased with what he said about LSU and Miami Dolphins relationships. That was very classy."

Bobby Humphrey, a star running back for Bama in the early 1980s, said, "I feel great. I feel absolutely great. I think this has generated so much positive flow and atmosphere, I think Alabama fans and this University and everyone affiliated with it should be very excited about today's announcement.

"Hearing Coach Saban during the press conference, you can just feel the love he has for the college game. Not only for making players the best players they can become but for making them the best citizens they can become, I feel like he's going to do a tremendous job here.

"I expect him to bring the same results (as at LSU). And I think he pretty much made it clear that you don't focus on a championship, you focus on what it takes to actually get to a championship level. Being a former coach, that is what you focus on. You don't focus on what you want to achieve at the end, you focus on the goals you set. There's a difference in setting a goal and reaching a goal. The process by which you reach that goal is more important.

"He made it clear there's a process he wants to install, and he was very confident. You can tell he is very confident in himself and he was very powerful in his speaking. I just liked the way he addressed every question. I like the fact that he has a lot of confidence in what he has done in the past and that it will work here."

Walter Lewis was the last Bama quarterback under Bryant in 1982 and the first under Ray Perklins in 1983. Lewis said of the Saban introduction, "Listening to him, I thought that at this point and time with our program, he is the perfect match. It was obvious that the things he had to say were coming from his heart. I think it's important that we heard what we did. He said why he's here, and how he's going to build this team.

"He hit a lot of nails on the head. He dealt with a lot of issues with the team and addressed the fan base.

"I was impressed. He seems like a perfect fit.

"When we played for Coach Bryant, we knew that he was teaching more than football, and you get the sense listening to Nick Saban that he understands the importance of chracter."

Dewey Mitchell was a linebacker and defensive end under Bryant in the mid-1970s. He and Alan Crumbley flew from Tampa, Florida, to be at the introduction of Saban. Mitchell said, "I know the fans were holding their breath. We were very anxious. A lot of credit goes to Mal Moore for sticking to his goal. He was getting a lot of criticism from some anxious people, but he stayed the course. I think he got us the kind of guy who can get us back.

"I was impressed listening to Coach Saban because instead of talking about a goal, he talked about the process of getting there. When we were listening, we were looking around at each other because he reminded us of the man we played for, talking about taking care of the little things.

"I couldn't be happier."

Allen Crumbley was a defensive back in the 1970s. He said, "I liked what he said, of course, but the main thing is that the proof is in the pudding. We know he has a plan that will work because he has done it. That's why he exudes such confidence.

"You win a national championship cheaply, you wouldn't feel good about it. He's going to do it the right way, and that's what excites me -- getting back to building good teams with good men.

"The good things that have happened to me in life have happened because of what happened here. I'm excited for the young men who are here and who are going to be here under him.

"I couldn't be more excited. I think all the (former) players are pumped."

Darwin Holt was a linebacker who signed with Bryant at Texas A&M, then transferred to Alabama when Bryant came to The Capstone in 1958.

"It's great," Holt said. "The last man here who won a national championship (Gene Stallings) and the man who was here and won the most national championships (Bryant) were both defensive coaches. And we have a defensive coach again. We had gotten away from that, but we're back with the right kind of head coach.

"He has a lot of confidence and I have confidence in people like him.

"Listening to him made me sorry I don't have any eligibility left. We (the former players) were listening to him and thinking about Coach Bryant because we know he is going to teach toughness and discipline.

"I think he's the right man and we're going to have great times."

Gene Newberry signed with Alabama as a quarterback under Ray Perkins, but ended up as a tight end. He said, "That was about as impressive a presentation as I've ever seen.

"What he does has worked. He has a national championship.

"I know the players are going to be happy playing for a guy like that. He is looking for big things in the future, and that is exciting for all of us."

Jack Rutledge was an offensive lineman on Bryant's 1961 national championship team, then spent years as an assistant coach for Bryant on other title teams. Rutledge said, "He knows what it takes to build a winning football team. I believe he'll have us back where we're supposed to be, which is being able to compete with anyone."

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