Saban enjoys homecoming to Baton Rouge

It was a scene out of a Hollywood movie.

Fans lined a walkway, standing five and six deep waiting outside a dressing room for the star to emerge.

 

It wasn't awestruck fans waiting on a movie star or crazed fans hanging around for a glimpse at a rock star, it was LSU fans, many clad in Miami Dolphin Blue and Orange waiting for coach Nick Saban.

 

Saban, who is in his first season as the head coach of the Dolphins, returned to Baton Rouge last weekend as his Miami team took on the New Orleans Saints in Tiger Stadium.

 

The game was the first home game played by the Saints on Louisiana soil this season. New Orleans has been playing its home games in the Alamo Dome in San Antonio since the destruction of Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the Louisiana Superdome.

 

It may have been a home game for the Saints, but it was more of a homecoming for Saban.

In five years of the Tigers, a span covering 2000-04, Saban led LSU to a pair of SEC titles and a BCS National Championship in 2003.

 

"I really do feel like I was coming home for this game," Saban said afterwards. "It was exciting for me, even though I didn't say it."

 

Saban was never a man of many words during his tenure at LSU. The coach usually did his talking on the field. Things didn't change as he did what came natural in Tiger Stadium – win. Saban's Dolphins beat the Saints 21-6 before a crowd of 61,000-plus Sunday afternoon.

 

"It's great to come back to Tiger Stadium," Saban said. "I really do have to say something. I really tried to make this about our team, you know, coming back here to play. But the people really have been so wonderful."

 

When Saban was introduced, the former LSU coach was greeted with a smattering of boos, but for the most part a raucous cheer from the stands of the stadium in which he was almost a king for five years.

 

"The class of LSU to put this venue on the way that they did was fabulous," Saban said. "It's just been wonderful."

 

Saban sat afterwards in a cramped media room reserved for the visiting team and chatted with reporters. Sitting at a table, under which his legs bounced nervously back and forth, Saban smiled when he talked about his return to Baton Rouge and the site of his largest accomplishment as a coach.

 

"It was exciting to be back in Tiger Stadium today," Saban said. "I feel really great that our team did a nice job to make us proud of how they played in Tiger Stadium today. Special thanks to all the supporters who mad things happen while we were here so wonderfully well. I really do appreciate the class that this institution and the people of the state of Louisiana showed myself and my family in coming back here."

 

Still wearing a Cotton Bowl watch he was given when the Tigers played Texas in 2002, the same watch he wore the night LSU won the national title, Saban was seated in front of a backdrop adorned with LSU logos.

 

"Looks good," Saban quipped.

 

He added that it deal feel a bit strange taking the field in Tiger Stadium from the visitor locker room.

 

"I want to say the stadium looks fantastic with the new press box and stuff, but it looks different from over there," Saban said. "I stood on the other side for how many games?"

 

Not only was it a homecoming for Saban, but four former LSU Tigers and another Baton Rouge native came back as well. Ex-Tigers Travis Daniels, Donnie Jones, Norman LeJeune and Jack Hunt all suited up for the Dolphins. Former Florida State running back and Catholic High product Travis Minor also returned home.

 

"We had four guys back here and of course Travis (Minor) is from Baton Rouge as well," Saban said. "I think they were all excited about it. I didn't really talk to them much about it. I tried to minimize me coming back here. I stressed it was about what our team needed to do to come back here and play football and have a winning performance to get us on track and headed in the right direction."

 

On the flip side, former Tiger Devery Henderson lined up for the Saints.

 

Jones said it didn't really sink in until he arrived at the stadium.

 

"It didn't really hit me until we drove up on the buses," said the former LSU punter. "We got to the top of the hill. It brought back a lot of memories. It was great to come home and play in Tiger Stadium."

 

Jones did say he was happier with the accommodations when he played for LSU.

 

"I have never seen Tiger Stadium from this side," Jones said of the opposing team locker room. "It is pretty bad. I guess they don't want it nice for the visitors. But it is good to be home. This will probably never happen again."

 

Saban said he didn't get a chance to visit his former team, but that is in the plans for the offseason.

 

"I talked with Les Miles on Friday," Saban said. "I wished him well in the game Saturday. He invited me to come and see the new facility building, which I told him I would come and do in the offseason. I want the players to know we are supporting them 100-percent in everything they do. But I think they respect me and know what kind of competitive spirit I have to know that I was all business in what we were doing here."

 

Saban said he has spent some time following the Tigers.

 

"I have watched them on TV," Saban said. "I have seen them play about four times and other than the Tennessee game, I have been extremely proud of the way they have played. I am right with you here. I am in pro football, but I still love college football and I love LSU."


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