Many people think they know Nick Saban. They see a maniacal coach programmed for one thing only: winning. They see a man bound to and by his own “process.” They see a person singularly focused on championships to the exclusion of anything else.
The people who think this are wrong.
There is more, much more.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to be able to tell about his love story with his bride, Terry. Before that, I shared my observations of watching a tornado transform him and cement him to Tuscaloosa. I saw his wanderlust leave that fateful day and his roots in Tuscaloosa take hold.
Now, he once again has let the world in on his tender side. He let us see the rest of Nick Saban before Alabama’s home game against Ole Miss. Let me tell the story.
I received a message via Twitter last week from a faithful follower, one I trust and know to be good to his core. His best friend’s grandchild is sick, very sick, with an inoperable brain tumor. Her biggest wish is to meet Nick Saban. He wanted to know if I could help.
Some wonderful people had donated the family a hotel room and tickets to the game. I have had many people ask me for tickets to games over the years; game balls, too. This was different. This was a chance to make a complete stranger’s day – that is what I live for.
I made a few calls to no avail. But then, because of two angels within the Alabama program, something miraculous happened.
Aubreigh Nicholas was going to meet Coach Saban.
“We didn’t actually tell her everything we were going to do Saturday,” Aubreigh’s mom, Brooke, told me. “We wanted a lot of it to be a surprise.
“So we get to the stadium, we met with the cheerleaders and then we met with Big Al and were on the field. The girl escorting her around said, ‘OK, they’re going to the Walk of Champions now and then Nick Saban’s gonna come out.’ Aubriegh’s face just lit up. She’s normally like a smile-on-her-face-all-the-time kind of girl, but after all this, something has to really happen for her to smile, like a big smile.”
Something like meeting Nick Saban.
“We had a little wheelchair for her that day because we knew it was going to be a lot of walking,” Brooke said. “They positioned her so she could see him as soon as he walked out. They told her, ‘He’s not gonna come straight over to you when you see him. He probably won’t even acknowledge you.’ ”
But Nick Saban did more than simply acknowledge Aubreigh.
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