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10 things you might not know about Alabama coach Nick Saban

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Nick Saban wired (1:05)

Alabama head coach Nick Saban gets his team ready for the National Championship Game vs Clemson. (1:05)

Everybody knows the headlines.

  • The three bowl games with Michigan State.

  • The national championship with LSU.

  • The two-year experiment with the Miami Dolphins.

  • The three (so far) championships with Alabama.

  • The berth in Monday night's College Football Playoff final against Clemson.

Love him (his statue greets fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium) or hate him (he's been called "the devil himself" and "Nicky Satan" by colleagues), Alabama coach Nick Saban can't be ignored. As he prepares for his shot at a fifth national championship, here are 10 things beyond the headlines that you might not know about one of the greatest coaches in college football history:

1. He drove a truck (and rode the clutch)

During his college years, Saban had a job driving a truck for Coca-Cola. "It's hilly in the Akron area, and I'd burn up a clutch every summer," he said. "The third summer I was there, my boss said, 'This damn thing ain't a footrest.' But you're on a hill in this big-ass truck, and it starts to roll back, and you're riding that clutch as hard as you can." Coke must have forgiven Saban for the destroyed clutches; the coach now has an endorsement deal with the beverage giant.

2. College teammates had big futures

As a safety at Kent State, Saban was teammates with future Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert and longtime Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, a tight end. When Saban was a senior in 1972 the Golden Flashes won the only Mid-American Conference championship in school history. Saban missed the final four games that season, including Kent State's Tangerine Bowl appearance, because of an ankle injury.

3. He was at Kent State during the shootings

Saban was a freshman at Kent State in 1970 when the Ohio National Guard fired on a crowd of Vietnam protesters, killing four students and wounding nine. Saban said he was thinking about going to the rally but had lunch first, and the shootings occurred before he arrived on the scene. "I'd never seen anybody shot before," he told USA Today for a column that ran on the 40th anniversary of incident. "Even though I didn't see them shot, I saw them after they were shot."

4. Biggest coaching influence (hint: not Belichick)

Saban was defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns under Bill Belichick in the early '90s, but it was a college coach who had the biggest impact on Saban's career. "Don James probably did more than anybody in this profession to influence me," Saban said in 2011. "From an organizational standpoint, our program is run a lot the same that Don James ran his program." James, who won a national championship with Washington in 1991, was Saban's coach at Kent State. "I never really wanted to be a coach," Saban said in 2014. "Coach James asked me to be a graduate assistant. My wife had another year of school, so I decided to do it, even though I didn't want to go to graduate school."

5. Read all about him

After winning the 2003 BCS national championship at LSU, Saban wrote a book, along with Brian Curtis, called, "How Good Do You Want to Be? A Champion's Tips on How to Lead and Succeed at Work and in Life." It's filled with nuggets of wisdom about coaching and beyond such as, "No matter what your chosen profession, be prepared for opportunity and be willing to take it -- your destiny may depend on it," and "Great leaders are not always popular." Belichick wrote the book's foreword. If you're looking for something more current and from a different perspective, "Saban: The Making of a Coach," an unauthorized biography by Monte Burke that Saban opposed, was released in 2015.

6. Beyond 'The Blind Side' on the big screen

Saban was the subject of an authorized documentary, "Nick Saban: Gamechanger." The film played in 26 theaters in SEC country (Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee) during its only week of release in 2010, earning $188,786. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie had the fourth-best per-screen average for the Aug. 27-29 weekend at $7,261. (The top movie that weekend was the heist flick "Takers," which took in $20,512,304 on 2,206 screens for an average of $9,298.) Of course, many more movie-goers saw Saban on the big screen during a cameo role as himself in "The Blind Side."

7. Love came early

Saban first met his wife, Terry, at a science camp when they were in junior high. They went to different schools in West Virginia mining country and didn't start dating until a few years later. They were married in 1971, when Saban was a junior at Kent State, and have raised two adopted children.

8. He's very superstitious

Saban may be a no-nonsense coach, but that doesn't mean he's not superstitious. He described a routine he stuck with during Alabama's unbeaten 2009 season: "The year we won the national championship, my daughter used to give me a penny before every game. There were a couple of times where she'd gone out the night before and I didn't see her, and I'd leave before she got up. And we'd have to meet in the tunnel before the game so I could get my penny. And it worked 14 times in a row." He also considers his habit of wearing a straw hat to practice a superstition.

9. He celebrates with the Rolling Stones

Saban's musical preferences include the Eagles, Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones. When returning from the airport after Crimson Tide road victories, he and his wife have a ritual of blasting the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" in the car. "We crank it up coming from the airport, driving home," Saban said. "That's kind of my happiest time of the week. That means we won the game."

10. You can buy a Mercedes with his name on it

For the Crimson Tide fanatic with deep pockets, here's the best way to arrive at Bryant-Denny Stadium in style: the $200,000 Nick Saban Signature Series Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The luxury van is loaded with pretty much every state-of-the-art feature imaginable, including a home theater system and three TVs. It seats seven in the cabin and two in the cockpit. You can only get one at Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham, which planned to produce 15 of these ultimate Alabama tailgating machines. Saban's son works at the dealership, and Saban himself was consulted while the van was being designed.