Eli Manning landed a pretty huge guest for his new ESPN+ show Eli’s Places, a college football-based spinoff of his brother’s Peyton’s Places. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has just about cemented himself as the greatest college coach ever, making him a must-get for a show chronicling the sport.
After growing up in West Virginia, Saban went to Kent State, where he played defensive back in the early 1970s. Right after his college career, he became a graduate assistant, and eventually, the Golden Flashes’ linebackers coach.
After nearly two decades toiling through the college and NFL assistant coach ranks, Saban landed the head coaching job at Toledo. After one successful season, he took off for the NFL once again, landing as defensive coordinator under new Cleveland Browns head coach Bill Belichick.
Saban and Belichick’s strong relationship is well-documented, and was the focus of HBO’s Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching, which was released in 2019. During the episode of Eli’s Places, Saban said that Belichick and Kent State’s Don James are the two coaches who had the biggest impact on his career.
Nick Saban on the two coaches that had the greatest impact on him: His college coach Don James at Kent State and Bill Belichick.
Saban on Belichick: “That was like going from junior high to graduate school” pic.twitter.com/RPtuaV9D5v
— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTBVids_YT) September 15, 2021
Nick Saban says that James is the one who talked him into becoming a coach, after his Kent State playing days were over. Working for Belichick, he says, was like “going from junior high to graduate school.”
While Belichick and Saban didn’t light the world on fire in Cleveland, they’d go on to become the greatest coaches in history of the NFL and college football, respectively. This season, Belichick is rolling with a Saban product, former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, as the true heir apparent to Tom Brady as New England Patriots quarterback. He likely doesn’t make that move without feedback from Saban about the young gunslinger.
James was an impressive figure in his own right. He parlayed his solid four-year stint at Kent State into 18 years at Washington. He won the Pac-8/Pac-10 six times during his run, with four Rose Bowl wins in six appearances, including each of his last three seasons from 1990-92. The 1991 Huskies went 12-0, claiming a national title and finishing No. 1 in the Coaches Poll.
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