In a world of hyperbole and bombastic language, words don’t seem to mean as much as they did in the past. Once or twice a year, a player or a game is declared as the greatest ever.
Perspective is key and time lends itself to settling those things most times. For those who craft words for a living, though, the over-the-top culture can sometimes rob the meaning of greatness.
However, someone like Nick Saban, a man who weighs every word and who doesn’t dole out praise for the sake of filling air time, words still have great significance. So when Saban talks highly of Minkah Fitzpatrick, it’s not to be taken lightly.
In his own way, Saban likened the versatile junior defensive back to the greatest he’s had.
“Minkah does it as well as anybody I’ve ever coached, in terms of how he works every day, how he finishes plays, his conditioning level, just phenomenal,” Saban said.
Let those words sink in for a moment, and then consider the closing word of the sentence: Phenomenal.
That word isn’t used much by Saban, who, unlike some coaches in the profession, gives an honest and sometimes raw assessment of the player he’s asked about. The veteran coach doesn’t get as much credit for that as he should, likely due to his scrapes with reporters. However, when Saban is asked a question, nearly all the time he gives a direct answer.
That’s why his words hung so heavy Wednesday night during his post-practice press conference. He didn’t just say Fitzpatrick was a great player. He showered him with effusive appreciation.
That type of accolade is becoming standard for Fitzpatrick, though. SI.com college football analyst Andy Staples wrote Wednesday that he’s worthy of consideration for the Heisman Trophy. Seriously.
Fitzpatrick can play all six positions in the Alabama secondary. Which he’ll play this season remains a work in progress due to finding the best spots for the players around him.
“I think his diversity allows us a lot of different things that we can do,” Saban said. “But to me, it’s getting the best combination of people around him that’s going to make us the most effective group in the secondary.”
Minkah has it all
Words still mean something to Saban. That should be celebrated by reporters, fans and players alike. Because when he tells you how “phenomenal” Fitzpatrick is, you know he’s not just using another coach cliché to get through the answer. He means every word of it. Even when it involves an expletive.
“(He) pays attention to detail,” Saban said. “It’s important to him. Makes sure he knows what to do. A lot of players that are good players I’ve heard them say ‘I’m saving it for the game.’ Every one of those players, and all those teams that I’ve been on that the players say that, none of them are worth a [expletive].
“He doesn’t do that. He works every day to get better. I hope we have more and more players who work like him, because when you have players that do that, you usually have a pretty good team. He sets a great example and we’re excited to be able to utilize him in a lot of different ways.”