I saw greatness on May 13th. Nick Saban came to Atlanta and spoke.
Apparently, he wasn’t here to sign autographs, take pictures, answer questions, or even acknowledge our presence.
I wouldn’t say he was aloof; I would say he was laser-focused and calm.
It was the man's calm assurance that was most palpable.
In 1976, my father took me to an Alabama-Georgia game in Athens. It was a hard sellout.
We were standing at the fence under the bridge when a man approached me and asked if I wanted to work inside. He went on to explain that he was a Sports Illustrated photographer and needed someone to carry his equipment on the sidelines.
Next thing I knew I was looking at Bear Bryant from about five yards away. I was just about to speak when that old dinosaur turned and looked me right in the eye.
I froze like a 15-year-old boy.
I had a flash of that feeling when listening to Coach Saban’s speech.
I have met the man, and he is not intimidating in the least. He is open and receptive and in a definite hurry. But when he begins to speak you realize that he is a genius in his chosen profession.
I mean a Miles Davis-type genius.
There was no gloating about state, conference, or national championships—or Heisman winners, numbers of All-Americans, or draftees.
He never mentioned that his statue is being erected outside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Of particular interest to Auburn fans might be that he did not participate in a skit or show up in a Cadillac with an elephant trunk sticking out of the hood.
I’m pretty sure that no one sat in the driveway and blew the horn, either.
What we will bear witness to this year is the unavoidable FACT that Nick Saban knows more about the game of football—his brand of football—than all of us.
Nick Saban is about to display to College Football America that he is king.
His puppet-master, under-my-thumb, Henry-VIII, God-Complex approach to coaching will be one of the hotter topics this fall, because almost every player who ventures between the white lines for 'Bama will be a Saban recruit.
You thought Marcel Darreus was a three-star?
Saban thought enough of him to play him as a true freshman. As a true junior, Mel Kiper has him second overall on the Big Board.
Who are you—yeah, you—going with, Saban and Kiper or Jamie Newberg?
You thought Burton Scott was a five-star wide receiver who would play his career opposite Julio?
Saban redshirted him and gave him a year to learn defense, because he thinks he’s a safety with corner skills. Or is it a corner with safety skills? What I’m trying to say is he’s got great hips, great speed, and he will knock your ass in the dirt.
Most important is that he was hand-picked by Saban to play in the defensive secondary.
The whole “process” will be unveiled.
From the strength and conditioning program and the coach he chose to run it, to the offensive coordinator from the other side of the country no one had ever heard of, who managed to go unbeaten in the regular season with John Parker Wilson—in his first year.
In only his fourth year at Alabama, Nick Saban is sitting on top of it all and will be extremely difficult to dethrone.
That is my first prediction for the 2010 season.