Saban Doesn't Allow Hazing

At some point in Alabama football history, there came to be an August practice of a gentle "hazing" of rookie players. They had to perform skits for the veterans, skits that inevitably drew harsh--though good-spirited--criticism. And then there were haircuts, the freshmen buzzed clean.

That is no more. Alabama Coach Nick Saban put a halt to it when he arrived in 2007. No one can say for sure that harm or good was done by the practice, but Saban had a practical reason for ending it. It is a part of his process, which is building a team.

Saban also had an emotional reason for ending the hazing. He remembered his lonely beginnings as a freshman walk-on football player at Kent State in the late 1960s.

"One of the things we try to emphasize with the players is to affect each other in a positive way," Saban said. "I think we have a lot of players on our team who enjoy football and they have learned a lot of football in the past few years and I think a lot of them enjoy sharing it and helping the young players along.

"When I came here there was a lot of hazing and harassing of young players. We immediately put a stop to that. We said, ‘Look, guys, all you have to do is remember when you were a young player.'

"I still remember to this day--and how many years ago would that be?--I got dropped off at Kent State by my parents. And the feeling I had, the loneliness for two weeks, being homesick and all that, making adjustments, going to two-a-days every day and not knowing what to do, not having much support in terms of friendship and people that you knew. I still remember that.

"So it's everybody's responsibility to help someone in a positive way, be more productive in terms of what they are doing.

"I do think we have a lot of guys on our team who actually do a great job of that.

"But I also think it's important because a lot of young players don't like to ask a coach what they don't know. So if they can ask a player, and that player can help them, that's helpful to some players who don't have a lot of confidence when they are young and don't have a lot of understanding."

Saban has always had good things to say about upcoming junior wide receiver Julio Jones as a player. This spring the coach has shown a particular appreciation for Julio as a leader of the wide receiver corps.

"Julio has completely set a different standard for how receivers do things here in practice and in every other way in terms of how he goes about things and I think he provides vital leadership," Saban said.

Although Jones professes to be the "same player I've always been," he admits that he has become a different type leader.

"In the past, I wanted just to lead by example," he said. "This spring I've become a little more vocal."

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