Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly shook hands Sunday morning in front of the Coaches' Trophy, the prize their two teams want to take home Monday night.
Sunday's meeting in Fort Lauderdale was the final press conference before Monday's game at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, to determine the winner of this year's BCS National Championship.
Saban spoke first, thanking the Orange Bowl for their hospitality and saying his team was ready to play. He also answered questions, including one about the reason for the players-only meeting earlier in the week. Saban said those meetings are routine, but said this meeting helped get the team re-focused.
"I think that when we came here -- I guess it was Wednesday... I kind of get lost with the days, we had a practice at home, which was a little bit out of the routine. We traveled here, and it just seemed like we had a little bit of trouble getting sort of recentered and refocused on what we needed to do, and we had to have a little meeting to try to get everybody back on track. But since that time I feel really good about how our players have responded."
Saban was asked what is this team's best quality. His answer? They have exceeded expectations.
I think this team has kind of exceeded expectations in terms of -- if you look at all the players that we lost last year, the leadership that we lost, the injuries that we've had, the schedule that we played, the adversity that had to be overcome, the new roles that so many people had on this team, the young players who had opportunities to really kind of show what they could do and how quickly they would mature to be able to do their job in a way that would give us a chance to be successful as a team, I'm really proud of
what this team actually was able to accomplish together as a group."
Saban also answered questions about the great influence his father, "Big Nick," had on him as a child, and how that has influenced him as a coach.
"We learned a lot about work ethic. We learned a lot about having compassion for other people and respecting other people, and we learned about certainly the importance of doing things correctly."
One reporter asked Saban to compare this championship game with the one he coached at LSU in 2003. His response drew a few laughs.
"2003? Wow, I was hoping you'd say last year and I might be able to remember." (Laughter.)
He went on to say the focus was on getting players to focus on that particular game and to be an effective player.
The most memorable moment of the press conference with Saban came a few minutes later when one reporter asked him if he was tired of seeing the media at this point in the week?
"No, not at all," Saban deadpanned, followed by lots of laughter. Saban then went on to say that he appreciates the media for what they do and says his reputation with the media is mis-understood.
"I really do respect what the media does for our game in terms of the interest you create, with the interest that you have in your coverage and creating a lot of news stories that people are interested in, which really promotes our game," Saban said. "Where I get a little misunderstood is I'm a little old-school in how I've tried to protect our team from -- to stay focused on what they need to do and how what you do can affect how they think and their ability to focus on what they need to do to be successful."
After Saban's remarks, Brian Kelly joined Saban for the photo opportunity in front of the Coaches' Trophy. Then, Saban left and Kelly sat down to answer questions. One of the first questions he was asked was about his experience with former players and coaches embracing his team.
"Well, I think it was important for our program to get back to this point where we bring everybody back in the fold, so to speak," Kelly said. "I think not only winning football games but getting this program back into the conversation relative to National Championships has brought everybody closer, as well as the way this football team is constructed, and I know Nick has talked about it, too, it's a little bit old fashioned in the sense that this is about the big fellows up front. It's not about the crazy receiving numbers or passing yards or rushing yards; this is about the big fellas, and this game will be decided unquestionably up front."
Kelly was asked if he believes in the "luck of the Irish" and "teams of destiny." His response? No.
"I think you get what you deserve," Kelly said. "We had some close games this year, but to win those close games versus losing those close games, you have to have more than just luck. You have to have a will, a determination. You have to have a confidence. And I believe that all of those things have to be built."
One of the most interesting questions Kelly was asked was to explain to a comment he made Saturday where he said the team that wins will be the one that makes the most mistakes.
"What I meant by that is that you have to be aggressive in this game," Kelly said. "If you're going to sit back and hope that it's going to come your way, you're going to miss. So my point was -- and John Wooden has made this quote to be part of his philosophy, as well, and I stole it from him, and I've used it quite a few times with our football team. This is one of those games where you have to be aggressive, and you're going to make a mistake. I'm not talking about catastrophic mistakes, throwing picks for touchdowns, but you may make a mistake here. As long as you know that you're playing hard and aggressive, that's the kind of mentality and that's kind of the background to that quote that I used."
Kickoff on Monday's football game is at 8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CT. Weather forecasters say temperatures will be in the 70s at kickoff with only a slight chance of a brief, passing shower during the game.
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