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Nick Saban addresses reporters during a news conference after being introduced as the head football coach at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Thursday.
AP photo by Kent Gidley
Nick Saban addresses reporters during a news conference after being introduced as the head football coach at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Thursday.

Former Alabama players celebrate Saban's arrival

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Former Alabama players rejoiced Thursday upon the hiring of Nick Saban as the school's 27th head football coach.

The Crimson Tide brought in several people from past teams to join in the celebration.

And while a lot of the big names — Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Ozzie Newsome — were not there, several other people, many with ties to coach Bear Bryant, gave their input on the Saban hire.

"There's no question that you're really proud of Mal (Moore), and the job he's done," said former Alabama player and assistant coach Jack Rutledge.

"He not only fulfilled the job, but also Nick Saban said the right things and he made the right points. It puts us in a position where we're competing with everyone."

The main theme was that the old-timers felt that Alabama could be competitive on a national championship-type level again, something it hasn't been able to do in the past decade.

Many players compared Saban to Bryant, the man to which all coaches in Tuscaloosa are compared.

Rutledge, who played under and coached for Bryant, saw many of the same characteristics between the two during Saban's first speech as the Alabama coach.

"If everybody does their job and does it with excellence, and if you do that, we're going to win," Rutledge said. "And like he said, 'your goal is to win the national championship, but you're building every day,' so he talked a lot like Coach Bryant."

Former Tide linebacker Darwin Holt said he would have followed Saban from wherever he would have come from to Alabama, just like he did with Bryant from Texas A&M. From Gainesville, Texas, Holt played in Tuscaloosa 1960-61.

"He talked about championships but you have to earn it with toughness and nature," Holt said. "He says all the right things."

Even a couple of players from the years when former coach Mike Shula was quarterback showed a sense of elation with Saban.

"You don't focus on what you achieve at the end, you focus on what you set. It's different from setting a goal and reaching a goal," said former running back Bobby Humphrey. "The process by which you reach a goal is different than reaching that goal. There is a process by which he wants to install and put in."

But there was a sense of sadness for those who played with Shula and continued their relationship with him off the field.

"It's bittersweet for Mike," said former Alabama tight end Gene Newberry who played in the late 1980s. "You're kind of happy and sad at the time. He was one of my teammates. I talked to him yesterday. It still hurts for him. From his standpoint, I wish he had another opportunity, but I still think the program is in good shape either way."

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