clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How Nick Saban turning down family cooking helped recruit Jonathan Allen to Bama

He’s not quite like other coaches.

CFP National Championship Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Former Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen is in the midst of NFL draft preparation, after he wrapped a brilliant four-year career in Tuscaloosa. Allen penned a “goodbye” to his alma mater in The Players’ Tribune, and it’s both good and interesting.

The most noteworthy passage might be the one about how Nick Saban recruited Allen to Alabama in the class of 2013 — when Allen was the country’s No. 3 outside linebacker and No. 16 overall player. The first thing: Saban wasn’t over the top.

Well, I wish I had something more provocative to share. The truth is, Coach Saban just … got me. He really just got me. The other coaches — honestly, for most people, I don’t even think it occurs to them that someone might not love the recruiting process. I think they figure, you know, Who doesn’t love being the center of attention? Who doesn’t love nonstop positivity, or endless praise? And so I think 99% of recruiting experiences are the same. Very rah-rah, very extra. But there’s something about Coach Saban that, for whatever reason, is just … different. Coach Saban isn’t going to sit there, and put on a big smile, and promise you this and that. He isn’t going to tell you that you’re a surefire starter, or an All-SEC shoo-in, or a first-round NFL pick. He isn’t going tell your mom, “Wow … this has to be the best pot roast I’ve ever had.”

The second thing: Saban literally turned down food from Allen’s mother during his in-home visit to see the five-star prospect:

He said thank you, but no thank you, he already ate. He hit her with the already ate. And all joking aside — Coach was incredibly polite, and I share that story purely out of love — it was a pretty telling moment for me. In this weird way, it told me everything that I needed to know about about Coach Saban’s intentions. And what I mean by that is:

And the third thing: Saban treated Allen like an adult.

Coach Saban hadn’t come over to put on a show, or to flatter us, or to tell us what he thought we wanted to hear. He didn’t make some big sales pitch, or promise the moon. He didn’t promise a starting spot, or SEC dominance, or national titles, or NFL riches — none of that. Truthfully, Coach didn’t promise me a thing. But what he did do was sit across from me … and answer every single one of my questions … and treat me like an adult.

That’s only one recruit’s story, but it aligns with Saban’s public persona.

He doesn’t talk a whole lot about Alabama’s past successes, at least not during the season. He doesn’t seem to be much for pageantry, even though he literally lands helicopters on high school football fields during recruiting trips. There’s a certain awing factor about Saban. He doesn’t need to promise the moon.

Allen’s a projected early pick — maybe in the top 10 — in April’s draft. He’s testing this week at the NFL combine, where he’ll probably put up big numbers.