Earlier this afternoon, Matt Hayes at Bleacher Report published one of the most beautiful, moving features on one of football’s most enigmatic and contradictory figures, Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Just when you think you have the Death Star of college football all figured out, that he's an obsessive, controlling, meticulous perfectionist, along comes a refreshing reality to knock it all sideways.
"If I break down crying while I'm talking about Nick Saban and his dad, well, I'm not a damn bit ashamed of it," says Tom Hulderman, a childhood friend of Saban’s. "That's how much those two men have meant to me and so many others."
The relationship between Nick Saban and his father is well-documented; less well-sourced are the deep ties that the Sabans still have to rural West Virginia and the impact that Nick Sr. and his slightly-more prominent son have had in the lives of countless “regular” people.
Earlier this summer, a day before Alabama would begin fall camp in its quest for a fourth straight appearance in the College Football Playoff, Saban was walking around the north end-zone suites at Bryant-Denny Stadium with a smile as wide as the expectations in Tuscaloosa. The annual Nick's Kids Foundation event was in full swing and later distributed more than $500,000 to 150 charities.
Since arriving at Alabama in 2007, Nick's Kids has raised more than $7 million for charities in the state of Alabama and the Southeast. Saban later said the event is "my favorite day of the year."
"This is who he is; it's who his dad was," says Sid Popovich, Saban's uncle and a father figure of sorts for Saban since his father died. "It was never about coaching for Nick's dad. He just wanted those kids to have a better life. That's Brother, too."
I’ve excerpted just a smidgen of Hayes’ work above. Do yourself a favor: block out some time to read this tonight; not only is this a uniquely-human look at a man too many people caricature as a joyless automaton, it is also how longform journalism is meant to be done. Great job, Matt.