By David Glenn Cox
They made me do it; I didn’t want to, but I had little choice. The only flaming news stories today are the competitive clown circuit contest between Texass and Floriduh. And I’m tired of writing about it and maybe you are tired of reading about it. Not tired in a giving up sort of way, but just looking to read about something else for a while. Here are today’s top stories in order, Texass Abortion law story, Ron DeSantis kills more children than car accidents and Mac Jones becomes the most heralded rookie quarterback to join the NFL, since Willie Joe Namath.
One year ago this very day, reporters and the sporting press were asking Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban, “You’re going to make Mac Jones your starting Quarterback? Why? You’ve got a five-star prospect, just sitting there waiting to go in Bryce Young.” When you are Nick Saban and a living football legend, recruiting is easy. You pick up the phone and say, “Hi, I’m Nick Saban. Wanna come to Alabama and play some Football? Every game is on prime time TV, and we have more alumni in the NFL than any other team. Last year, every player eligible for the draft on the starting team was drafted! They just showed up with a big bus and took em all off to the NFL. It makes you wonder, how Mac Jones was ever recruited to this team in the first place.
Coach Saban calls it “the process,” and you’ll often hear him use the term “buy in.” The process asks, “how hard are you willing to play on a hot Tuesday afternoon practice, when no one is looking?” A personal commitment to excel. These players are regimented and if they don’t show up for class, they will have to explain why. They have weight training, football practice, team meetings, plus class. The players are weighed and measured, poked and prodded and someone checks their homework every day. The players are coached in media relations, and freshman aren’t allowed to speak to the media for just that reason.
The process says that you don’t look at the scoreboard. The game is down here, not up there. The only reason you look at the scoreboard is to see, “how long till I win? How long till I lose? I’m tired and I want to relax, how long until I can do that?” The most important play of the game…is the next one. The process asks, “What does it take to break you? What does it take to make you get angry and quit? Who are you when things don’t go your way?” That’s important to the Mac Jones story. Jones spent two years on the scout team. A group of young men whose chances of ever playing for the starting team are doubtful, but who play just the same. (Think Rudy)
The coaches nicknamed Mac Jones, McEnroe after the tennis great known for his fiery temper. Two years, with no guarantees of nothing! The team already had two great starting Quarterbacks in Tua Tugovialoa and Jalen Hurts. One other boy quit and left the program, seeing no way to the starting job through the crowd. In his third year, Jones was named the back-up Quarterback. Jones usually came in to play after the game had been decided, and put-up decent numbers for a back-up Quarterback.
Imagine, in his long career, how many five-star prima donnas who think they are god’s gift to football Coach Saban has run across. The process asks, “Are you coachable? Do you want to improve or are you perfect now? Do you buy in? Are you willing to devote yourself to an idea and commit yourself wholeheartedly to a group effort to be the best? To willingly work your ass off on a long, hot Tuesday afternoon practices, when no one is watching.”
One year ago today, the sporting press couldn’t imagine Mac Jones as the starting Quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Then Mac Jones went out and put-up numbers that made the fans quickly forget all about Tua and Jalen. Jones goes undefeated putting up record passing numbers, he wins the National Championship and is in the running for the Heisman trophy. Mac doesn’t have the best arm or legs in the NFL but in 13 SEC games, Jones only threw four interceptions. He went from probably undrafted to a first round draft pick. He went from an unheard-of player to a premier player. Working every day for three years, with no promises and no guarantees.
What set the NFL scouts alight about Jones was his brain. The ability to decide in milliseconds whether to throw the ball or not. To throw the winning touchdown or to throw the game away. Turns out, three years in the trenches is even better than five stars. Football talent is great, but the ability to learn from your mistakes is an even greater talent. The process says, don’t look for excuses, you look for answers. If you dropped the ball, why did you drop the ball? Every human being who ever trod the earth including Jesus, becomes defensive under criticism. It’s not our fault; the ground was muddy, and I was pushed from behind! Nope, the process says you learn from criticism. Accepting criticism makes you better.
Coach Saban tells his players that what the media says about them is, “Rat Poison.” Today they will tell you that you are great, tomorrow they will call you a bum! “I’m the best player in the league, ESPN said so. What do I need to work hard for?”
The process is larger than football, talent only goes so far and hard work is a habit. Nick Saban made Mac Jones the starting Quarterback, because he earned it through hard work. And without asking, where’s mine? The process not only made Mac Jones a better quarterback, but it also made him a better person. Hard work, with no excuses, = execution and excellence. Something to remember as a new crop of Alabama millionaires joins the ranks of the NFL. If you buy in, you can cash out.
There is a reason why Alabama has more players in the NFL than any other team. That little man at the far end of the room is going to teach us how to work hard and be successful at life, while he’s coaching us at football. What do you know? A political message after all. How are we going to change things in this country? Hard work and don’t listen to the rat poison.
“Character is what you do when no one else is watching.”
― Nick Saban