Nick Saban Heaps Praise Upon Mike Sainristil After NFL Draft Selection

This was quite the compliment from the great college football coach of all time...
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Recently retired Alabama head coach Nick Saban knows a thing or two about identifying good defensive backs. He played the position at Kent State in the early 1970s, and coached the position during the early stops of his career as an assistant coach.

The Crimson Tide put a plethora of defensive backs in the NFL during Saban’s time as the head coach in Tuscaloosa as well, one their way to six national championships.

So, when the Hall of Famer waxed poetic about Michigan nickelback Mike Sainristil after he was drafted in the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft, No. 50 overall by the Washington Commanders, you know Saban wasn’t just blowing smoke.

"There's a difference between 'love' and 'loves' — I loves this guy," Saban said on College GameDay's coverage of the Draft. "I mean, this guy may be the best football player, pound-for-pound in the draft.”

If not for a slight frame at 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds, there’s little doubt that Sainristil would have been a first round selection in this year’s draft. The graduate senior, who switched from wide receiver to defensive back midway through his college career, produced at an insane level for the Wolverines over the last two seasons, with 102 tackles (11.5 for loss), four sacks, seven interceptions, 20 pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles.

"I mean, he's instinctive, he's physical and I know he's not very big, alright, but I'm going to tell you what, this guy makes plays,” Saban said. “He can cover, he can tackle, he's tough, a fast reactor. I just love the way this guy plays, I mean I just love it.” 

Saban also noted Sainristil’s instincts in getting after the quarterback, which the former Alabama head coach had a frontrow view of during Michigan’s 27-20 win over the Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl.

“Good blitzer, killed us in our game blitzing,” Saban said. “Just killed us coming off the edge. He's a star."

Over on NFL Network’s coverage, Fox Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt called Sainristil “the best player on the best defense in college football.”

A two-year captain, ‘Mikey’ was one of the leaders who led Michigan’s program to new heights over the past three years, culminating in a national championship in 2023. Those leadership qualities, combined with all the physical and mental attributes listed by Saban, make Sainristil an excellent second round pick for the Commanders.

Nick Saban’s full comments regarding Mike Sainristil can be viewed below:

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Matthew Lounsberry