To the Alabama Crimson Tide:
First of all, I want to thank you for another great year. It is difficult to manage as big a schedule as you do every single week, and it would be easy to let your college football focus lapse. Moving forward with your lives, most of you will not be looking toward the NFL. You will be seeking employment in the world beside the rest of us, simply trying to make a difference in the world one day at a time.
I want to thank you for your determination and your willingness to accept the rules of a system you may not fully understand yet. It shows character that we are not here writing articles about why X or Y player is not going to be playing in the next game. Keeping your nose clean, and your butt out of trouble, is already exceptional in a college campus environment. Alabama doesn't just provide their fans with great football players, they provide role models for us and our (future) children.
I want you to know that, as a fanbase, we will be out here supporting you whether you win or lose in New Orleans tonight. Alabama football is played one game at a time, but your reputation as role models is not based on whether you turn in an undefeated record or a national championship. Many of you will be legends in the Alabama football stories we tell our children, and you made that happen every day at the Capstone, and not just in 2011 and not just in championship games.
To the seniors and the players heading to the NFL:
You have learned more than I can explain in one letter from the system you have been in under Nick Saban. For years to come, you will constantly think things like, "Aha! I finally see what he was talking about!" This goes for the entire coaching staff, though, I am admittedly not nearly as familiar with their systems. As you move through life, you will find that there are two events from which you learn the most in life.
Thank the Crimson Tide?
One is becoming a champion. As players on the storied Crimson Tide football team, you join the ranks of a select few people that will always be remembered by fans you will quite possibly never meet. The second is learning from failure. You have learned on a football team that failure is temporary as long as you let it be. Failure is not a permanent state unless it's your state of mind.
Champions don't succeed all the time. If they did, every national champion would have allowed zero points per season when they hoisted the crystal ball. You accept failure and you move on. In this instance, I believe Nick Saban has a rare "perfect" rule. That is the 24-hour rule. You discuss the failure, you figure out what you can learn from it and you move on with your life. That is quite possibly the most valuable thing you can learn from Nick Saban. (Saban taught you a lot about winning, but the proper way to handle failure is something even the most successful people in the world take years to learn.)
Regarding the title game:
Go out there and have fun. From experience, I tell you that nobody else on this earth can ever put pressure on you. The only pressure on you for this game is the pressure you put on yourself. Go out there and play your best. As a diehard fan, that's all I ask. Do your best. Win or lose, that's all we will ever ask of you. We will be disappointed if your best is not good enough to win, but we will never be disappointed in you.
Roll Tide Roll!