Nick Saban knows how to network.
The Alabama football coach mixed and mingled throughout the Crimson Tide’s annual Pro Day on Tuesday with many different NFL representatives. His mission was to get as much feedback on his players as possible and share that information with them to aid future decisions. Also, he just wanted to be a good host.
“That goes both ways,” Saban said. “We need to be accommodating them when they come here, and then they’re very forthcoming with us when we need to get that information.”
Alabama had 20 draft-eligible players in attendance, including 11 who were at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month. Not all of them participated, but a good chunk did take the opportunity to prove their talents in front of scouts. It was a three-hour long showcase.
Two NFL head coaches – New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick and Cincinnati Bengals’ Zac Taylor – and eight additional NFL general managers made the trip to Tuscaloosa.
All eyes were on the athletes.
“I always caution our players that there’s two things: You can prepare for the combine, where you’re vertical jumping and standing broad jumping and all that,” Saban said. “Or you can prepare to be a good football player, which is what I think most people are looking for. That’s the training we do with them.”
The latter, that is.
Official numbers on how former members of the Crimson Tide performed were not provided. The only portion with announced results was the broad jump. Wide receiver Derek Kief had the longest at 10 feet, 5 inches. Mack Wilson (10 feet, 1 inch) had the second-best mark, followed by fellow linebacker Jamey Mosley (9 feet, 10 inches).
There were also more position-focused rounds with things teams would do in practice.
“The linebacker drills are important because they want to see how you open your hips, how fluid you are,” linebacker Christian Miller said. “I think being able to finally show them my pass rush really paid off because, again, that’s what I specialize in.”
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It’s a sport-specific ability.
“Football is football,” Wilson said. “A 40-yard dash is a 40-yard dash. I didn’t play football all my life to be a track star or anything like that. I feel like it’s a part of football that some scouts, some teams and some coaches want to see.
“But at the end of the day, it’s all about what you put on film. That’s your resume.”
And this is a giant job interview.
The 2019 NFL Draft, which is April 25-27 in Nashville, Tennessee, is only the beginning. Saban can continue to help all he wants. But a reference only gets a candidate looked at.
“Everyone has their needs,” offensive lineman Jonah Williams said. “If you look at the NFL, there’s no team that only has three linemen right now and just needs somebody. If you’re going to play in the NFL, you’re going to have to take someone’s job.”