By (Matthew Speakman)

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is seen as the most influential figure in college football. His influence stretches beyond just Alabama. Many programs in the SEC try, and usually fail, to play keep-up with Alabama due to Saban.

Even though he is seen as an intimidating figure, Saban still builds personal relationships with the players. Many players who play under Saban have at least one story they could tell you about the five-time national championship-winning coach.

Kicker Andy Pappanastos’ moment came at the beginning of this season. He had to change his number from 92 to 12 due to a special teams change. Saban wore No. 12 in college and let Pappanastos know what he thought of him donning Saban’s number.

“He came up to me at practice, and he just gave me a hard time,” Pappanastos said. “That was the number he wore in college. And he’s like, ‘I’m a lot better athlete than you.’ That was funny.”

Some stories are like this. Saban jokes with his players from time to time. For every laughing moment however, there is an equal one where players get chewed out. Cornerback Anthony Averett’s was not a laughing moment.

It showed him just how much Saban strives for perfection and demands it from his players.

“I got an interception at practice and, I mean, I thought it was a good play,” Averett said. “I was thinking about the outcome, I got the interception, what can you be mad about? And he’s just critiquing me, getting on me about my technique, yelling at me — can’t really say what he really said — he’s just getting on me. Other than that, I mean, I was like ‘OK, I thought I did a good job.'”

Averett and the defensive backs get a heavy dose of Saban in their careers. Saban played that position and spends a lot of practice teaching them. This can sometimes lead to trash talk and competition between players.

Cornerback Levi Wallace says Saban and some of the players start trash-talking during drills.

“The receivers talk mess with him,” Wallace said. “‘Coach Saban, I’ll run you over.’ Stuff like that. But Coach Saban is first, though. Like, ‘If I was 20 years younger,’ things of that nature. He’s pretty funny like that.”

The trash-talking doesn’t stop there, however. Some of Wallace’s favorite memories of Saban have come in meetings and film sessions.

“He’s real funny, funnier than you guys think, especially in meetings watching film,” Wallace said. “You know, he swears he can cover every receiver we’ve got. When DBs mess up, things of that nature, he makes comments like that. Pretty funny.”

Still, the balance helps Alabama keep its dominant presence. These moments are just as important to the players as the preparation and wins. They keep the players on their toes and let them know that they are playing for someone who cares about them.

“Of course I like when I see him laugh a lot better,” Averett said. “I like how he balances it. He likes to balance it, and when he’s not always serious all the time, it helps me out personally. Like OK, he actually is human.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports