Our Intern Shares a First-Hand Account of Getting ‘Sabaned’ at an Alabama Football Camp
Editor's note: During the 60 Minutes piece on Nick Saban, Vinnie Sunseri coined the phrase 'Sabaned' and viewers found out that even youth football campers aren't off limits to 'The Process.' One of our interns brought his story in and we asked him to share it the unforgettable experience. This is his story.
Every year, University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban puts on The Nick Saban Football Camp for young football players, both high school and youth teams. The high school camps are for grades 9-12 while the camps for the youth players range from ages 8-14. In the summer following the Crimson Tide's 2009 championship season, I was a senior in high school at Macon East Montgomery Academy and had a chance to attend the camp.
When you are filling out the information for the camp, you have to choose which position you will compete at during the camp. Not considering at all that Coach Saban is the secondary specialist, I listed myself as a defensive back. I am still trying to decide if this was the best decision of my life or the most terrifying.
On the first day of camp, your parents drop you off at your dorm and send you on your way. After dropping off belongings, you report to Bryant-Denny Stadium where they take you into the Alabama locker room under the stadium and take your measurements (height and weight). You are then directed out of the locker room and down the intimidating tunnel to the field. I never had time to realize how many outstanding players had run through the same tunnel I was passing though. On the way through the tunnel you grab your official t-shirt and walk out onto the field, where you wait in line to get a photo made with Coach Saban.
After shaking his hand and taking a picture, you are told to move to the indoor practice field at the Mal Moore Athletic Facility. Once I hit the threshold of the large garage doors to the indoor fields, everyone began screaming "Go! Go! Go!, Run!, Move! Move! Move!" They run you through a quick gauntlet to get your vertical jump, shuttle run time, and 40-yard dash time.
At that very moment, reality set in. I had finally realized what I had got myself into.
The next morning began with a 7:00 am breakfast before heading to the practice fields at 8:30 am. My position group consisted of all seniors in high school from all around the country. We are all jogging out of the indoor facilities to the practice field when the sun hits ours eyes and we saw the fourth quarter program score board on the field. At this point, you were hearing strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran screaming for everyone to get into the stretching lines. I could see Julio Jones standing at the end of my line and it made me feel like I was on the team. The only thing that was missing was my crimson and white jersey.
After stretching, my position group jogged over to where we would be running drills most of the day. In the middle of one of our back-peddling drills, Coach Saban walked up and took over the drill. He was there coaching us and telling us how to properly do it. He was correcting our every move.
I was eating every second of this up because I knew at this point that he would be our coach everyday of camp.
After four days of the same rigorous practice schedule, the our final workout was held inside of Bryant-Denny Stadium and our parents were invited to come watch from the stands. My dad was in attendance with a friend who had a very nice camera (his son was a friend of mine who was also at the camp). The coaches got everyone but the offensive and defensive linemen together for the last portion of the practice for some 7-on-7.
After a few reps, I got in as a cornerback and went up against a division one prospect from American Christian Academy in Tuscaloosa. He lined up in front of me, which was terrifying. I was extremely scattered brained because I was playing on this legendary field with Coach Saban watching. This was my ultimate dream.
The next play, I forgot which coverage we were in and the receiver smoked me down the field. I recovered and tagged him down, but I was disappointed in myself because I gave up the big play. I was still staring out of the back of the endzone towards the locker room when I hear loud screaming coming from behind me. It took me a moment to realize who in the world could be making so much noise.
At that point, I turned around to see a fired-up Coach Saban scooping his straw hat off the ground after throwing it my direction. He was still steadily marching toward me shoutin. He said, "You used the wrong hand to bump with. That's why he beat you!"
We walked towards each other and when we met, he turns and starts walking with me. All I could do was put my head down in embarrassment, smile and say, "Yes sir," over and over again. I could not help but smile because it was like living a dream. This showed me that he cared genuinely as a coach. He cared about how I performed. In that moment, I felt a part of the team. My dad's friend caught the entire incident on camera, and I still have a framed collage of the pictures in my college house.
The moment was big for me, but even bigger for my dad. It meant a lot to him that Coach Saban took the time out of his busy schedule to coach me. It truly was an amazing experience, and I would suggest it for any player who is interesting in developing their football skills. Each and every coach took this very seriously. They were all there to make us better men and it wasn't all about football. They talked to us about how important it was to make good grades, talked to us about our attitudes on and off the field, and really wanted us to be well-rounded young men.
All in all, it was an amazing experience that makes an incredible conversation piece.