Alabama football offense beats to drum of a Canadian heart

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 16: The Alabama Crimson Tide offense lines up against the Colorado State Rams defense at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 16: The Alabama Crimson Tide offense lines up against the Colorado State Rams defense at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has the Alabama football offense mirroring his true grit & determination. Does it from from his Canadian roots?

Straight Outta Welland became a popular parody movie T-shirt when the Hollywood production of Straight Outta Compton was released. The shirt refers to Welland, Ontario, Canada, and people from that area wear that fact like a badge of honor. Not because of how wonderful the city is but because of how tough and rugged people are who come from there.

Alabama football’s offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is one of those people. Daboll may have went to high school and played football in Athol Springs, N.Y., but he was born in Welland in 1975 and was raised there during his childhood.

No, Welland is not Compton, California, but it has a distinct way of imprinting itself on its citizens and the people who live near the city.

Welland used to be where all transportation to and from Canada would flow, as the Welland Canal was built for transport ships carrying large amounts of trade goods and other products to pass safely around Niagara Falls. Railroads also weaved around the city to move the goods to their destinations.

Now, the canal is still used frequently but other ports have been made, hampering businesses who cannot compete with neighboring cities much closer to the highway that runs to Toronto and the U.S. border. With a population of just over 52 thousand, the run-down business buildings by the waterfront glow hauntingly at night but give way to the hustle of the tough french-speaking demographic that almost equals the english.

Daboll would have been immersed in that culture as a child, seeing hard-working factory fathers coming home from a long day at the different plants in Welland, Port Colborne, and St. Catharines. He would have seen the mothers raising, protecting, and disciplining their children through their broken franco-english. Maybe even just a pure french tyrannical rant if the child or some absent-minded adult annoyed them just enough.

Most of all, Daboll would have seen the grit and determination that Wellanders lived by. The same can be said for the greater Buffalo and Rochester areas where Daboll’s family moved to when he was a teenager. Through proximity, the Niagara Region in Canada and Western New York are very similar in their values.

Nothing is handed to you, there; everything is earned through hard work.

Maybe that explains Daboll’s style and how different it is compared to Alabama’s previous playcaller Lane Kiffin. ESPN’s Alex Scarborough mentioned in August that “Daboll might not have been a sexy hire, but maybe that wasn’t the point. […] Not only does Daboll come with the backing of future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick, but he’s also essentially the polar opposite of his predecessor.”

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Kiffin, for all of his abilities as an offensive coordinator, would abandon game plans and would call plays that either had not been practiced before or would cast doubt for some on his faith in the system and possibly even the players he coached. That method of playcalling “didn’t mesh well with [head coach Nick Saban’s] methodical, process-driven philosophy, and the two butted heads.”

Daboll, on the other hand, “who credits his grandparents’ ‘old-school’ approach for his ability to handle that kind of tough love [from Saban], has no problem with a challenge.”

Many men would have let Daboll’s career-ending injury as a player for the University of Rochester cripple his heart for the game. Instead, after countless years coaching in the National Football League for multiple teams in different roles, Daboll is the leader of possibly the greatest program in college football.

The players and the rest of the coaching staff seem to be responding to Daboll’s organization and attention to detail with the same work ethic that beats deep in his chest. The offense is passing and rushing in a balance, with starting quarterback Jalen Hurts getting the confidence from Daboll to throw to many different receivers and scoring touchdowns in the air as well as on the ground. Something that Kiffin seemed reluctant to do last season.

Even Saban, when discussing Daboll’s approach, was quoted saying, “We have a better system. […] So I like it better. I think it creates more balance.”

Beating a tough team, like Vanderbilt today, is not easy, but neither is life in Welland or Western New York. Harsh winters and hard labor, however, have a way of forging the fight inside a person. That fire does not know the meaning of quit. Instead, it makes a man like Daboll throw the hammer down and drive a challenge through the anvil.

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Nifae Lealao, Vanderbilt’s senior defensive lineman thinks Alabama is next? That’s not going to put any fear in Daboll’s heart or rock his faith in his players to carry out his game plan.

Even if Vanderbilt has enough of a pass rush to sack Hurts a few times, do not expect Daboll to completely abandon his strategy. The Canadian blood pumping through his veins will not allow that to happen. His life has been a grind and he has come out on top, so why would he stop any time soon?