Important Lessons

There is no question that Nick Saban was hired at a princely sum by The University of Alabama to develop a good football team. But Saban wouldn't be in the job he is in just for the football or just for the money. It is deeper than that.

Following Wednesday's Alabama football practice, and after discussions of injuries and position experiments and progress in various areas, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban was asked what he liked about college football. (It should be added that Saban said he also enjoyed coaching in the NFL.)

Interestingly, Saban had addressed his team earlier on things that are important, and he wasn't talking about blocking and tackling.

"I enjoy making players do right," Saban said. "I enjoy making them do right in school, which is why they come to school, to graduate. That's going to affect them more than anything they do. We're legitimately concerned that when they leave here they have an opportunity to be successful in a career."

Saban not only knows professional football, he knows the numbers. He pointed out that only one per cent of college athletes go on to professional athletic careers. He said the average playing career of an NFL player is less than four years. And he said the pay for that play will be about $2 million, "insignificant" in that it is not an amount to last a lifetime "particularly when you get only about 60 per cent of it."

Saban said, "I like having a program that is helpful to developing players so that they have a better chance of being successful in life. Character, attitude, priorities they develop, discipline they develop, ability to make commitments to things, invest their time in something worthwhile, get some positive self-gratification and confidence, do it with a lot of pride – those things will help them be successful in anything they do."

And, of course, he enjoys the football part. "I love to see them develop and improve as football players," he said. "I love that part of it. Coaching, teaching, getting after it."

Saban said, "It goes back to character. Most of the best teams I have been a part of have the most people that are successful. It's the individual character those players brought that made the team's character very strong."

Saban opened his remarks with a discussion of character. He said he was sharing what he had told Crimson Tide players following Wednesday's practice.

"The team's competitive character is made up of the individuals and what kind of competitive character they have, what kind of discipline they have, what kind of effort they give, what kind of toughness they play with, how responsible they are do their job, what kind of conditioning they have to sustain for 60 minutes in a game…that's really what's most important. Whatever we do, the individuals will make up that part of the team and it will make the team's character. We can set the standards, but nobody can create it but the individuals who make the decisions. It's all their choice.

"It doesn't take any ability to give effort, it doesn't take any ability to play with toughness, and it doesn't take any ability to be responsible to do your job. It takes a lot of discipline, a lot of focus, a lot of pride in performance, a lot of being responsible to make sure you know what to do so you can go out and do it over and over again.

"Don't just go out and endure practice. Go out there and try to improve and get better."

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