Nick Saban is nearly always the smartest man in the room.

While the tens of thousands in attendance came to Tuscaloosa on Saturday to celebrate the 2017 Alabama national championship football team, Saban did that while also crafting a recruiting pitch to the prospective student-athletes in town on official visits.

Such is the mind of college football’s best coach, that he could honor his team’s accomplishment and at the same time tout his program to the impressionable 18-year-old minds seated at the steps of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“Our team, our university, has an extraordinarily high standard for expectation of what we want to accomplish and what we want to do,” Saban said during his speech at Saturday’s celebration. “This team has a tremendous standard for what they want to accomplish and what we want to play to on a consistent basis and how we want to represent this university.

“It’s a level and anything less than that is not accepted, and that level has been established not just by this team but by the previous teams that we’ve had that have stood up here and won championships and been champions by the way they represent this university, how they compete and how they play. And that was very evident when there were 24 NFL players on our sidelines at the national championship game, and you could feel the spirit of each one of those guys and the expectation that they had for each one of these players. And then these players responding to that expectation with an outstanding performance to be able to come back and win a championship.”

Saban casually dropping the fact that 24 former UA players and current NFL players were at the national championship wasn’t subtle, and it wasn’t meant to be. The message was clear: Come to Alabama and you’ll become a man, compete for championships and leave with a college degree.

And that message wasn’t just from the head man. It came from the permanent team captains, nearly all of whom addressed the recruits in some regard.

“I came here because I wanted to play football at the highest level, compete for a national championship and get my degree,” senior linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “I’m proud to say that I’m a two-time national champion, a three-time SEC champion and I got my degree and finishing my master’s degree in May.”

His senior classmate, center Bradley Bozeman said it wasn’t long ago that he was a recruit.

“Five years ago, nearly to the day, I was sitting the same seats you guys were sitting in as a recruit, knowing I was about to join something pretty special,” Bozeman said. “And today I stand here a part of something pretty special.”

Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne sat alongside SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey during the ceremony. Sankey took a look over the crowd and repeated his league’s motto “It Just Means More,” saying Alabama’s fans again proved the slogan with their attendance (Alabama estimated the crowd at nearly 40,000).

Reach Aaron Suttles at or at 205-722-0229.