Nick Saban and the Alabama staff have lined up some incredible speakers during their training camp.
Ernie Johnson's message last week of everyone on a team having value, the positives of living a life off the script you may have originally planned on, and about the adversity and positivity his family has learned after adopting a special needs kid from Romania went viral. It's one of the best talks to a team I've seen anyone capture.
Following up on that, Alabama lined up NFL veteran Alex Smith, who recently signed a deal as an NFL analyst with ESPN after retiring following a 2020 season where he earned the league's Comeback Player of the Year award.
It's fascinating to hear the insight from Smith as he talks about laying on the field after breaking his leg during a 2018 game against the Texans. He went from thinking he'd see some doctors, they'd fix him up, and he'd be back out there in 6-8 weeks. However, as we now know, Alex's break was anything but common. His leg suffered both a spiral fracture and a compound fracture. Then infection set in and they were talking about possibly having to amputate his leg.
17 surgeries and a whole lot of rehab and intense work later, Smith was able to make an inspirational comeback.
Smith's message to the Crimson Tide was about what pulled him through those dark months after the injury, and how he leaned on lessons he learned earlier in his football career centered on self-doubt, the pressure to perform, and anxiety.
"It's stuff that every athlete deals with, whether they admit it or not. While I am proud that I made it back onto the field, but I am really more proud of what got me there. Not the physical journey, but the mental one."
"I learned that so much of the anxiety that holds us back in life, it is self-inflicted. We make it worse on ourselves."
About a minute and fifteen seconds into the clip, Saban chimes in with a question and a pen and pad of paper in hand taking notes, asking Smith how he learned to deal with his anxiety.
Smith responds to Saban's question by telling the story of a backup linebacker on the roster who had a key role as a core special teams player.
"Before games he would go around the locker room and he would get in everybody's face and he would ask 'Are you going to live today? Because I am going to live today. Are you?'"
"Then you would watch him play, and he was fearless. He made plays. He wasn't perfect. But for me, I don't think, to this day, that he even knows the effect he had on me. Here's a guy that isn't trying to hide from the challenge. This is hard. Football is hard. Here he was taking it head on, and he was game for it. He had flipped it."
Smith goes on to share how that experience changed his mindset and that story serves as a lesson on how inspiration can sometimes come from the most unexpected places.
The video is about 5 minutes long, and worth every second. Take some time to watch it either alone, or with your team.