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“Chizik, whose Tigers won the national championship, beat out six other finalists for the honor. He said he hasn't had time to reflect on his team's perfect 14-0 season and the school's first national title since 1957 because he's been so busy with recruiting. "You work so hard and you're so demanding on yourself, it's really hard to grasp everything until there's a month or two that passes," he said. "You really don't have time to sit back. A month or two later when it really slows down and you get a chance to back off is when you really realize it." He said recruiting also has kept him too busy to think about next season. "I'm not there yet," he said. "We'll get there. We've moved on to the next phase, and that's really finishing up this recruiting year really strong. Next year will get here quick enough. We're trying to finish up and wrap up this year, and I'm sure we'll get to that pretty soon." Chizik was honored to win an award bearing Bryant's name. "As a football coach, when you can have your name associated with a guy that's done so much for the sport, it's a blessing," he said. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden was the night's other honoree, receiving the Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award given by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Bowden, who won two national championships with the Seminoles, said he has always looked up to Bryant. Bowden liked to make the short trip to Tuscaloosa to study Bryant's coaching techniques at Alabama while he was an assistant football coach at Howard College, now known as Samford, in the 1950s. "It means a lot to me," he said of the award. "When I was coming up, my idol was Bear Bryant. He was just 50 miles away when I was at Howard, and I was able to go down there and visit and learn football. It really helped me get kicked off on my career." The awards were given in conjunction with the American Heart Association, a fact not lost on finalist and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who suffered a mild heart attack in September. "Because the American Heart Association is involved with this, it becomes a little bit more special," Dantonio said. "When I was asked to be at the event, win or lose, I was coming." He said he's learned a lot about heart disease in the past few months while recovering from his heart attack. "I've been educated," he said. "Never thought it would ever happen to me, and there I was. So it can happen to anybody, and thank God I listened to my body and I'm OK now. There are ways back. That's the thing people have to understand, that you can be strong again. You can do a lot of things again." The other finalists were Nevada's Chris Ault, Bobby Petrino of Arkansas, Texas A&M's Mike Sherman, Chip Kelly of Oregon and former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. Petrino and Harbaugh, the new coach of the San Francisco 49ers, were the only finalists who did not attend the event.
As a football coach, when you can have your name associated with a guy that's done so much for the sport, it's a blessing.” -- Auburn's Gene Chizik on getting an award bearing "Bear" Bryant's name