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Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Nick Saban: College 'where I belong'

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Nick Saban said Tuesday that his two-year stint with the Miami Dolphins taught him the college ranks "is where I belong, and I'm really happy and at peace with all that."

Saban, speaking a day after his Alabama Crimson Tide won the BCS national title for the third time in four years with a 42-14 win over Notre Dame, emphatically sought to end speculation that he might return to the NFL.

"How many times do you think I've been asked to put it to rest?" Saban said. "And I've put it to rest, and you continue to ask it. So I'm going to say it today, that -- you know, I think somewhere along the line you've got to choose. You learn a lot from the experiences of what you've done in the past.

"I came to the Miami Dolphins, what, eight years ago for the best owner, the best person that I've ever had the opportunity to work for? And in the two years that I was here, had a very, very difficult time thinking that I could impact the organization in the way that I wanted to or the way that I was able to in college, and it was very difficult for me."

As for his Alabama players, All-American linebacker C.J. Mosley already has said he'll return. So has quarterback AJ McCarron, who will have a talented group of receivers led by freshman Amari Cooper.

"We certainly have to build the team around him," Saban said, adding that a late-game spat with center Barrett Jones showed the quarterback's competitive fire. "I've talked a lot about it's difficult to play quarterback when you don't have good players around you. I think we should have, God willing and everybody staying healthy, a pretty good receiver corps. We'll have to do some rebuilding in the offensive line. Regardless of what Eddie [Lacy] decides to do, we'll probably still have some pretty decent runners. But I think AJ can be a really good player, maybe the best quarterback in the country next year."

The biggest question mark is replacing three, maybe four, starters on an offensive line that paved the way.

Saban emphasized the difficulty of repeating and said he showed the players a video of NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan saying that the first title isn't the hardest -- it's the ones after that.

That's because, Saban said, "you have to have the will to fight against yourself."

Now the Bama coach has four titles, including one during his stop at LSU. Saban doesn't wear the championship rings but uses them for a different purpose.

"I just put them on the coffee table for the recruits to look at," he said, cracking up the room.

Saban already has lined up another highly rated recruiting class with the next wave of young talents waiting in the wings.

After all, he talked about the sign mentor Bill Belichick hung in the football building during their NFL days together: "Do your job."

Saban jokingly acknowledged that while he prepares for everything, the one thing he has never been able to anticipate is the Gatorade bath. He drew heat for a scowl after the first one, following the title game win over Texas when he got dinged in the head. Monday night's dousing went better.

"It's cold, it's sticky, but I appreciated not getting hit in the head with the bucket," Saban said. "That was an improvement."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.