Playing the quarterback position comes with a lot of pressure and, most times, a lot of guidance. That guidance may stay with that quarterback for a long time.
When former high school quarterback and now Alabama head coach Nick Saban was asked about his most memorable pass, he offered up a story about his first piece of coaching advice.
The first coaching lesson Saban ever received came from Earl Keener, his coach at Monongah (W.Va.) High School.
As a sophomore, Saban led Monongah against Masontown Valley. It was the final game of the season. Both teams shared a record of 9-1, and whoever won the game earned a spot in the playoffs.
It was a rough start for Monongah as they fell behind 18-0. As the team trudged through a nearby graveyard to get to the locker room to regroup at halftime, Saban recalls Keener’s demeanor towards the team.
“Coach Keener never yells or anything to get us straightened out,” Saban said.
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Monongah closed the gap to 18-12 with a chance to go down the field and score. It’s fourth-and-12 at Masontown’s 25-yard line. Keener calls their final timeout and Saban runs to the sideline for the call. Keener, instead, asks Saban what play he thinks should be called.
“I said, ‘Well, what I think is you should call this play,’ ” Saban said. “I didn’t want to call this play because everybody in town is there watching and if it doesn’t work, it’s gonna be on me.”
Keener didn’t call the play and in fact, told “young Nick” what he thought would work.
“He said, ‘I don’t care what play you call,'” Saban said. “You got the fastest guy in the state playing left halfback and you’ve got the No. 1 receiver in the state playing split end. I don’t care what play you call, but one of the two of them needs to get the ball.”
Saban trots back onto the field with his team, fakes a pitch to the halfback, and throws a 25-yard touchdown pass to win the game 19-18.
“It wasn’t a great pass, but he caught it,” Saban said.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama football’s Nick Saban tells story about first coaching lesson