Dr. Kevin Elko: Alabama’s Motivational Mastermind


Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban is a great coach, but he’s an even better program manager. Throughout his tenure at Alabama, Coach Saban has surrounded himself with quality individuals that are reliable and trustworthy.

Take Kirby Smart or Scott Cochran for example. Before being hired on at the University of Alabama these two coaches were relatively unknown. Kirby Smart worked as the safeties coach with Nick Saban in Miami in 2006, and was the running backs coach at Georgia, his alma mater, in 2005. Scott Cochran on the other hand joined Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa after a stint with the New Orleans Hornets after leaving LSU when Saban departed to the NFL.

Coach Saban’s program management skills extend far beyond the field and his coaching staff. Before the 2012 BCS National Championship in New Orleans, Coach Saban took the entire team to see Red Tails and he took his 2003 LSU team to see The Last Samurai.

“We’re always trying to create and make sure that they have the right kind of psychological disposition to play with the kind of mental energy and intensity that’s going to allow them to be all they can be and play their best football game,” Saban said.

Although films provide a certain feeling of passion and motivation, Coach Saban searched for even more and he found it in Dr. Kevin Elko. Saban brought Dr. Elko in for the first time several years ago and he has been a staple in the Crimson Tide locker room ever since.

So who is Dr. Kevin Elko? He is one of the most well known and most requested motivational speakers in the country. He has consulted with various successful NFL teams including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints, and college teams such as LSU, University of Miami, Nebraska and Rutgers.

Coach Saban entrusts Dr. Elko with the motivational messages before Alabama’s biggest games. Dr. Elko visited with the Crimson Tide before the LSU game on November 3 and before the BCS National Championship Game on January 7.

But Dr. Elko’s biggest impact on the Alabama program didn’t come before a big game, it came in the offseason. It came in the days following the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak. Dr. Elko played a major role in mending the brokenness that was created by the devastation of the surrounding community and the loss of Carson Tinker’s girlfriend.

Dr. Elko delivered a simple message, but that message would propel the Tide to their second BCS National Championship in three years, only months after the city of Tuscaloosa was devastated by a tornado. Elko’s message: Don’t ask yourself, “How can I receive blessings today, and where are they?” but start asking, “How can I be a blessing to someone today, and where are they?” Not “What can I receive?” but “What can I give?” Elko’s motivational words eventually led to several team-wide community service projects to aid with tornado relief.

Dr. Elko had a similar message to the Crimson Tide this year in Miami. He recounts a phone call that he received from Coach Saban only days before the Tide’s trip down to Miami. Saban was worried about the distractions in South Florida. Dr. Elko flew down to Tuscaloosa and told every player to free themselves of the “mental clutter” in their lives and to focus on the task at hand. The Crimson Tide seemingly did so and walked away from Sun Life Stadium with their second straight BCS National Championship.

Does Dr. Elko deserve all the credit for the Crimson Tide’s recent success? Of course not, but Nick Saban has proven that he can innovate and overcome complacency. Dr. Elko has played a major part in Alabama’s success during the Nick Saban era. His messages are taken by coaches like Scott Cochran and drilled into the players’ minds everyday at practice. “No mental clutter. Carry the water until it turns to wine. No mental clutter. Carry the water until it turns to wine.” Over and over. Until these words of inspiration become a mentality and a lifestyle. It’s all part of The Process.

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