Commenting on learning curves for young Alabama football players, Nick Saban said some ‘need to learn how to learn.’
As we have said in the past Alabama football coach, Nick Saban is a wordsmith. What others describe as ‘The Process’ is always thoughtfully and precisely communicated by Saban. There are no secrets. The essential components are preached in simple, specific terms.
On his Thursday night radio show, made another simple statement with a powerful message. Talking about the development of young players, Nick said,
"Some of the young players need to learn how to learn."
He was not making a general comment on the too-frequent foolishness of youth. Being vulnerable to not doing what you are supposed to do has no age limitation. Succinctly, Nick was saying learning curves are steeper for those without established learning habits. He often describes those habits as mental discipline and attention to detail.
Saban’s comment begs a question. How smart must college football players be to learn how to become a champion? Stereotypes linger that football players are sometimes not the brightest of athletes. There is considerable evidence such stereotypes are not accurate.
Many current and former Alabama football players are examples of highly intelligent young men. A decade ago, Sporting News picked the 20 Smartest Athletes and Greg McElroy was one of only two college players on the list.
A more recent player, Shyheim Carter was described by Nick Saban as,
"one of the two to three smartest guys he’s coached for the Tide."
Offensive linemen have long carried the nickname, “Big Uglies.’ While not being specific, the label implies more brute than brain. Many Alabama football offensive linemen have shown being a physically powerful brute does not limit the acuteness of their minds. Two of many examples are Barrett Jones and Ryan Kelly.
If there is one position most unfairly labeled as lacking smarts it is defensive linemen. In truth, there is no difference between defensive linemen and other football players. One example of a former Alabama football player provides outstanding proof.
Dalvin Tomlinson was a key front-four player for the Crimson Tide before joining the NFL’s New York Giants. He is a physical force with a sharp mind. Along with playing football, Tomlinson is an artist and a musician. He plays multiple instruments and is teaching himself how to play more. He turned down an offer from Harvard to enroll at the University of Alabama. He earned two undergraduate degrees in Tuscaloosa; finance and financial planning.
Nick Saban once paid Dalvin a glowing compliment, saying he was the kind of person you want your children to become.
So when Nick Saban says some young guys need to learn how to learn – he does not mean any of them are not smart enough to do it.