Aaron Judge spent time in the minors. Nick Saban thinks his players should do the same.
College football and MLB observers probably didn’t expect Aaron Judge’s name to come up during Nick Saban’s press conference on Wednesday, but it did and it even made sense.
Saban’s reference to the Yankees outfielder came in response to a question about how to advise underclassmen about declaring early for the NFL draft. The NFL, Saban explained, doesn’t have the sort of minor league structure that the other three major American sports leagues do.
“Aaron Judge is a pretty good player, but the way I understand it is he spent a couple years in the minor leagues, isn't that right, before he really came up and now he's a rookie that is pretty much a dominant player,” Saban said. “Well, if that guy wasn't ready to play in football when he was 22 years old, he might not make the team.
“So what these players have to realize is when they make a decision to go out for the draft, it's kind of an all-or-nothing thing because there is no second developmental chance for them. That's what college football is for them.”
Not only did Judge spend three seasons in the minors, he also played three years of college ball. At 25, he’s now leading the majors in home runs and was the top vote-getter for the All-Star Game.
The lack of a minor league system in football is a win-win for Saban and the NFL, of course. The NFL has been content to let college football operate as its defacto minor league because it doesn’t need to invest any money in creating one itself. Saban, meanwhile, gets to hold onto his players because they have nowhere else to go.