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Jumbo Package: Saban, Tide players remember Walt Gary

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Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

Happy Monday, everyone. It was a somber weekend around Tuscaloosa, as Bart Starr’s memorial was held at Samford University and we learned that superfan Walt Gary passed away. Walt was very clearly an inspiration to many around the Alabama program, including the players. As usual, Cecil Hurt said it best.

One notable thing came through in this weekend’s worth of tributes to Walt Gary from those who knew him. Very few mentioned Down syndrome. None mentioned anyone feeling sorry for Walt, who had a great quality that sometimes goes unnoticed: he didn’t feel sorry for himself. He knew he wasn’t going to score touchdowns like Derrick Henry or Jalen Hurts, but he considered his contribution — making his weekly prediction for the head coach (perhaps with some occasional play-calling advice), or working at the Supe Store, or shaking his red-and-white shaker — as important, too. And it was.

That would be my tribute to Walt, a small one in a great outpouring of tributes from great figures. His life taught the lessons of empathy and of not taking for granted the blessings that you have, certainly. Those are great things to ponder, to recognize and to acknowledge.

Like so many folks with special needs, Walt’s optimism and general positive attitude was infectious. Jalen Hurts made a special tribute to him, and Nick Saban expressed what Walt meant to him and to the Alabama program.

Rest in peace, Walt. You will be missed.

Saban carved out a few minutes for media at his annual Nick’s Kids golf event.

Saban also talked about what proposed stadium renovations reveal about the football program at Alabama.

“I think it speaks volumes to a commitment to a standard of excellence that the University, the athletic department has to continue to be our best,” he said. “If you stand pat and everybody else is chasing you and what you do, they’re eventually going to catch you. To be aggressive in trying to make improvements is really important.”

That is a Saban quote if I ever heard one. The man is obsessed with staying a step ahead.

Nate Oats spoke at the Alabama Sportswriters Assocation convention in Montgomery.

“We’ll only have one senior next year with Beetle (Bolden),” Oats said. “Now, we’re going to have more than one scholarship because I’m not going to play 13 guys or 12 guys if Jahvon (Quinerly) has to sit out. So, guys won’t play, they’ll be unhappy, they’ll leave, whatever happens. So, we’re going to recruit a few, plan for a few -- or shoot, some guys hopefully have a good enough year and they can do to the NBA or whatever. But we’re going to plan on that happening.

“So, I think getting the recruiting for 2020-22 -- at this level you’ve got to start on it early. We’re kind of getting our eyes on kids, and (Antoine) Pettway’s doing a good job of that.”

It’s tough not to like the way this guy tells it like it is.

Last, something called a Berry (not Barry) Tramel actually sat down and typed out an idea that the SEC powers are trying to emulate Oklahoma in terms of scheduling.

Let’s be clear about something. OU was not the only superpower willing to schedule well. Southern Cal and Notre Dame always have led the way in ducking no one. Michigan and mostly Ohio State consistently have played marquee games. Texas, too. And Florida State.

Truth is, the Southeastern Conference has lagged. The toughest conference in college football has relied on a scheduling model that includes eight league games, typically three automatic-victory games and one solid-to-great nonconference game, usually against an in-state traditional rival or a neutral-site season opener.

Yeah, Alabama has completely dodged those marquee games, chief. It seems tough for these people to reconcile how Alabama’s overall strength of schedule almost always ends up higher than all of the teams he listed.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.