ESPN The Magazine put Nick Saban on the cover of its 2018 college football preview issue, with the headline, “Nick Saban is More Than a Scowl.”
What follows is 14 vignettes across the greatest college football coach of all-time’s life, from eighth grade to this past summer. For any Sabanologist, this is essential reading.
I’ll share one, when Saban was the Houston Oilers’ defensive backs coach and Hal Mumme the head coach at Copperas Cove High School in central Texas.
The defensive coordinator on Mumme’s staff, however, considers Saban a genius. Saban, a newly hired defensive backs coach with the Houston Oilers, hasn’t been a head coach yet, but word has gotten around in the coaching community. The coordinator writes to him for months, asking to watch film with Saban, to pick his brain for a bit. Mumme doesn’t understand all the fuss.
“Saban finally calls my guy back and says, ‘OK, I’ll meet you such-and-such Saturday in April,'” Mumme says. “Well, it’s the Saturday before Easter. My defensive coordinator comes in and he’s just crushed. ‘Coach, we’ve had this family trip planned forever, I can’t go. But how about you go? I’ll give you the list of questions! You go to the meeting, write down everything Saban says and we’ll be a lot better on defense.'”
Mumme agrees, somewhat reluctantly. Saban meets him at the door of the Oilers’ facility. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” Mumme says. “I have a list of questions on a yellow legal pad that I think should take about 30 minutes. Well, we watch film for four hours. Four! He doesn’t know me from the defensive coordinator who was idolizing him. I’m just some high school coach. But he was still so patient.”
After, as Saban locks the door to the facility, he grabs Mumme by the arm and says, “Don’t tell anybody we did this because Mr. Adams [the Oilers’ owner] will fire me.”
“I’m like, ‘Don’t worry about it — your secret is safe in Copperas Cove,'” Mumme says.
Mumme, as we now know, would go on to become Kentucky’s head coach from 1997-00; he and Saban squared off in 2000, Saban’s first season at LSU. The Tigers won that game, 34-0.
Years later, Saban would go on to host Mumme Bowl II, a scrimmage between Hal’s Belhaven University football team and his son Matt Mumme’s LaGrange College team, at Alabama’s indoor facility in 2015.