TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama coach Nick Saban has already left his mark on the football program. So much so, they've already built a statue of him.
The University of Alabama unveiled the statue in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium as part of a celebration leading up to Saturday's spring game. The unveiling comes 15 months after Alabama beat Texas for the BCS national championship.
"This is certainly an honor, to be here with so many great coaches, so many people who did so much to create a standard for so many years," Saban said. "But this honor is one that represents so many people that were a part of this team.
"Martin Luther King once said, 'Being the best is something that is not a small feat.'"
Per school tradition, coaches who have led Crimson Tide to a football national championship are represented in the Walk of Champions plaza, all in their game-day garb. Saban joined Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul W. "Bear" Bryant, and Gene Stallings.
The 9-foot figure was designed by student Jeremy Davis, who is from West Blocton, Ala. It depicts Saban leaning forward in the process of clapping his hands and his mouth open as if he's shouting encouragement to his team.
Alabama defeated Texas at the Rose Bowl 37-21, on January 7, 2010. A plaque with players' names from the title-winning team was set in place.
"They had an 'I will not be denied attitude,'" Saban said. "They actually prepared better, performed better than anyone else in the country in the season that season, and that's not easy to accomplish."
Stallings, who led the 1992 national championship team, represented the coaching families during the ceremony, which included team captains, family members and school officials.
"What a job well done," Stallings said. "Most people have no idea, as in zero, how hard it is to win 14 games in a row, playing a schedule that the University of Alabama plays. When Coach Saban came to the University of Alabama the football program was not what you say a high peak. In fact, they were coming off some struggling years."
Former team captain Rolando McClain, now the Oakland Raiders' middle linebacker, couldn't help respond to that when it was his turn at the podium.
"Coach Stallings, those were the longest three years of my life," he said. "One of the best decisions I ever made was coming to the University of Alabama. I think I can speak for all of my teammates from 2009 and the years before, he made us great men. He taught us how to work. That was a problem when I first got here, we lacked discipline."
Numerous team members were on hand Saturday, including Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, quarterback Greg McElroy and defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, expected to be a top pick in the upcoming NFL draft.