There are few persons who have a better idea of what University of Alabama coach Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide football team are all about than Baltimore Ravens’ GM and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Ozzie Newsome.
First of all, he worked four years with Saban at Cleveland under then-coach Bill Belichick, so he knows him. But he knows the Alabama program, too. Not only was Newsome a star receiver there, but he often visits the school when he returns to his Alabama home during bye weeks.
“I do have an intimate knowledge of the players there,” Newsome said. “If, on a bye week, Alabama has a game at home, I’m in Tuscaloosa and at the practices.”
Suffice it to say, then, that Ozzie Newsome is one source to tap when wondering what makes Saban so much better than most of his peers — and tap him we did on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, asking the Ravens’ GM what makes Saban special.
“Preparation,” Newsome said. “He believes in dotting his I’s and crossing his T’s, and he makes sure everybody around him does the very same thing.
“And he feels like he has to out-recruit everybody. There’s no doubt about it that he’s out there, and he probably doesn’t spend a day of the 365 days of the year where he’s not trying to recruit someone to come and be a part of the University of Alabama.
“No one pushes and drives harder than Nick. But no one pushes himself and drives (himself) harder than Nick. I think those are the reasons why year in and year out they’re competing for a national championship.”
Alabama appeared in five of the past eight BCS national championship games, including the past two, and won four times. No other school has more than two appearances during that period … and no need to remind Newsome. Since 2010, he used one first-round draft choice and two seconds on Alabama players.
Now fast forward to this year. The school not only had 10 players invited to the annual NFL scouting combine earlier this month but could have as many as six chosen in the first round of the April draft. Yep, there’s something that makes Alabama talent more attractive and, frankly, better than most other schools, and, Newsome believes, that difference is the head coach.
“Nick does a very good job of molding those players into becoming complete players,” he said. “They understand what hard work is, they understand what preparation is and they understand about competing at a very high level. So when you get one of those players, instead of having to put them through the process for them to get to that level, they’ve already played at that level.
“And, if it is like it was when I was there, if you don’t play to compete you probably don’t get the opportunity to play. So they’re accustomed to playing against … and practicing against … players of their equal.”