The 26th annual L'Arche Mobile Football Preview went virtual for the first time ever on Thursday night. 16 different college coaches, broadcasters, and media personalities recorded messages responding to a unique series of questions regarding the upcoming season.
University of Alabama coach Nick Saban and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn headlined the event which also included Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt, Mississippi State's Mike Leach, USC's Clay Helton, Baylor's Dave Aranda, Georgia's Kirby Smart, and more.
Pruitt had the most humorous moment of the evening when he shared a recruiting story from when he served under Saban as the Crimson Tide's director of player development.
As the story goes, Saban gave Pruitt the task of heading to the Mobile area to help recruit former Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron and other prospects.
"Nick Saban told me," Pruitt said, ‘Listen, Jeremy we’re in a good spot with these guys. I want you to go down there and recruit them for this week. At the end of the week, I’m going to send Coach Joe Pendry and Coach Jim McElwain down to do a home visit with a couple of these guys. I just want you to report to me every night what’s going on.”
Pruitt said he would call Saban every night with a detailed report on his efforts. One day, Saban got wind of rumors that, then Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, was making a push for McCarron and he wanted his assistant to check it out.
“I’m like, ‘No Coach. I sat outside his house every night and watched. Nobody’s been in,’” Pruitt said. “On Thursday of that week, Coach McElwain and Coach Pendry fly into Mobile. I pick them up and we’re going straight to AJ’s house.
"We pull up there into AJ’s house. You know I had the right address, the make of the vehicle was the same that were there. You know we knocked on the door and knocked several times. And this little old lady came to the door and kind of shocks me. I’m thinking this must be AJ’s grandmother, and I said, ‘Is AJ here?’ She said, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘AJ McCarron.’ She said, ‘No baby, he lives four houses down that way.’
“Right then I had a lot of anxiety, thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve been watching the wrong house for a week.’ And Jim McElwain looked at me and said, ‘Great job, Pruitt.’”
In the end, McCarron would go on to sign with the Crimson Tide the following year and break multiple passing yards and touchdowns records, while being a part of three national championship winning teams.
Here is the full transcript of what Saban said during his pre-recorded session:
Q: "What has been the best lessons you have learned while playing or coaching sports?
Saban: "I think the best lesson I have learned in playing and coaching sports is basically the character of competition. There is a lot of things that go into that. You learn work ethic, perseverance, how to work with other people, how to overcome adversity, pride and performance to try to be the best you can be at whatever it is you do because, in competition, you are actually faced off against someone else. All these kinds of things, to me, are the kind of things that help you be successful in life. I think that is the thing I learned early on in competition."
Q: What was your greatest single moment as an athlete or coach?
Saban: "You know, it is really hard to point out just one thing that was my greatest moment as an athlete or a coach. I think every championship that you win is very special because of the relationship you have with the team, the togetherness of that particular team, everybody buying into doing all the things they need to do to help the team be successful. It is a special feeling. So, to say one was better than the other, I can not say that. Even when we won the state championship in high school, you know, that was just as good as all the rest. When you are in coaching and you are trying to climb the mountain, you are trying to be the best and you win the championship and you accomplish that, that is probably one of the best feelings you will ever get. You know, personally, it is completely different. Family, having children, raising children, I mean, a lot of the self-gratification that comes from that is far better than winning any championship."
Q: What can you say about leadership in the face of a crisis?
Saban: "I think leadership in the face of a crisis is when you really do see true leadership. People who can stay focused on what they can control and not worry about what they can not control, and therefore, you have the opportunity to control the circumstance rather than the circumstance that you are in controlling you. I think if you can do that, calm in the midst of chaos is what I always say, and set a good example for other people, be somebody that they can emulate, understand what they are going through and the uncertainty that it may create and help them for their benefit. You still need to serve other people even in crisis. Sometimes you say, 'Well there is nothing I can do,' sometimes your presence is just as important that you care to help fix whatever the problem is."
Q: Do you have any messages for us during this current crisis?
Saban: "Well, I think first of all, with this pandemic we are going through right now, the number one concern is the health and safety of people everywhere. I think, obviously, if you follow the health guidelines that have been established by our government and our community, it is the best opportunity to slow the spread of this virus, whether it is washing your hands, social distancing, staying at home whenever possible, I think we have to do this together. Everyone has to do their part, and I think, once we are not taxing the healthcare system so dramatically, maybe we can start to get back to normal."
Q: Can you share a few points about your football team in this upcoming season?
Saban: "That is kind of difficult because all we have had with this team is the offseason program. Some of the things I really like about this team so far is, we have the best attention to detail, the most disciple, guys going to class on and off the field, guys doing a good job in the offseason program and not having a lot of issues and problems, but because we did not have spring practice it is really hard to evaluate the progress, especially of the younger players who are less experienced and who benefit the most from spring practice. Hopefully, if we can get back to our summer program, we will be able to systematically implement something that will the development so these guys will be a little more ready for fall camp."
Q: Can you say a word about L'Arche Mobile?
Saban: "I think L'Arche Mobile is a great organization that helps so many people and, you know, we have had a lot of compassion for people and we have tried to do a lot to help people who are less fortunate than us, and give an opportunity to have a better chance to be successful and happy in their life. This is something that L'Arch Mobile has done a really good job of for a really long time and we appreciate that more than you can know."