What if Kent State had never invested in Nick Saban?

Alabama head coach Nick Saban held a press conference yesterday, a typical practice during summer camp.

At first glance there wasn’t anything special about it. To my disappointment, no outbursts or rants (Sorry, but those are priceless).

But if you were listening, there was one nugget offered that made me think.

In the midst of being asked about player development, injuries and the ongoing wait to see Duron Carter in pads, a member of the media asked Alabama’s head coach about his memories of Kent State as a player.

Alabama opens its 2011 campaign against the school, Coach Saban’s alma mater.

“I think like a lot of players, I don’t remember very many games,” Saban began. “I do remember the championship our senior year which was the first maybe in a long time, maybe ever there. But really what I remember the most was the relationships with people who were sort of academic mentors to me, but most of all the coaches.”

He went on to explain the impact his head coach had on him, along with his positions coach. The two apparently went out of their way to ensure that this short, scrappy defensive back from West Virginia was presented with the tools he needed to succeed.

“Don James was a fabulous head coach. Great in terms of personal development. Great in making you be academically responsible. Probably helped me graduate in terms of his emphasis on the importance of education, and certainly made football fun in terms of you always felt like you were well-prepared.”

“My position coach, Maury Biebent, who has passed away, was a great mentor to me, in terms of not really being a coach, but the kind of person you develop into. But I probably wouldn’t have never been a coach if it wasn’t for those two people, because I had no intentions of being a coach.”

See, it was the spring of his senior year. His football eligibility was finished. He had moved on to baseball, and the love of his life had another year left at Kent State before they could move on to greener pastures together.

“Coach James asked me to come and be a graduate assistant coach; I had no intentions of being a coach. Terry had another year of school, we couldn’t move anywhere. So I decided, ‘Yeah, I’ll just be a GA here and do this stuff and get a graduate degree’ and I really didn’t want to go to school.”

Long story short, this is a story of investment. Don James and Maury Biebent, invested in the life of a young Nick Saban. Without them, according to Bama’s head coach, he probably wouldn’t be in coaching today.

“I would say those people had a tremendous impact on me, and there were a lot of academic people there that did the same. So there’s a lot of memories, but most of them are relationships. And most of them are people that were involved in that experience.”

Thanks to these two coaches, the 2011 Crimson Tide will be in contention for the national championship for the fourth year running. Thanks to these two men, Alabama’s graduation rate of its football athletes is at the top of the SEC. Thanks to them, their pupil has changed the face of Alabama football, in turn changing the culture in Tuscaloosa from an out-of-control free for all to being a well-organized, well-oiled machine.

Without their investment, where would Alabama and the hundreds of young men it has already touched under Saban be?

But taking it further, who are you investing in? What future leader needs that extra something from you today that will make the difference for them…and possibly scores of others…tomorrow? Who are you going out of your way for, that doesn’t necessarily deserve it, but needs it?

In light of yet another round of depressing financial investment news, this was a story of investment that paid tremendous, exponential dividends.

And as I watched arguably the most powerful head coach in the country, fresh off the practice field, speak on his memories at Kent State…where I am investing, and in whom, for me was the question of the day.


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