HomeDa Birds NewsEagles Stars Reflect on Nick Saban's Impact: "End of an Era"

Eagles Stars Reflect on Nick Saban’s Impact: “End of an Era”

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PHILADELPHIA – If things go sideways in Tampa on Monday night, Nick Sirianni could be out as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach. It’s unlikely, but if it happens, get ready for a deluge of head coaching replacements, many of whom will make sense and others, like Bill Belichick, who won’t.

One name that won’t be on the list is Nick Saban. One of the titans of the college game, the heavy hitter who retired earlier in the week from the University of Alabama after 17 seasons as the Tide’s head coach produced some terrific players and people.

Two of the Eagles’ best players played for Saban – receiver DeVonta Smith and offensive lineman Landon Dickerson.

Until the Eagles drafted them 1-2 in 2021, the Eagles hadn’t taken a player from Alabama since 2002 when they took running back Freddie Milons, who never did anything, in the fifth round.

Smith and Dickerson talked about their former head coach on Thursday as they prepared to meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night in the wild-card round of the playoffs. It will be their fourth playoff game since arriving together, Smith as the 10th overall pick, Dickerson as the 37th.

Philadelphia Eagles lineman Landon Dickerson gives his former coach, Nick Saban, a lift after the University of Alabama won the national title in Dickerson’s final season with the Tide.USA Today

“It’s the end of an era,” said Dickerson. “I’m grateful that I was able to be coached by him. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of person. I think a lot of people see his accomplishments on the football field and don’t really understand how much he does for his players.

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“The hardest part for him I think quite honestly is not stepping away from coaching on the field, it’s going to be how much of an influence he had on guys’ lives and just developing those kids into young men.”

Dickerson said New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, whom Dickerson played with at Alabama, texted him with the news.

The lineman recounted a special moment with Saban. It happened in the national title game in Dickerson’s final season. Dickerson had torn an ACL earlier in the year, but Saban let him onto the field for two snaps in their 52-24 win over Ohio State.

Dickerson ran up to Saban after the clock hit all zeroes, hugged him, and lifted him off the ground.

“(It was) my first thought after we won,” said Dickerson. “I don’t think the docs were happy about it, but that was the first person I went to. He meant a lot to me. He changed my life and put me in a position where I can be today.”

Smith was on the field for that title win. He finished with 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Smith, though, remembers a punt return in a playoff game against Notre Dame that season that made Saban unhappy.

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“I didn’t field the punt inside the 5,” said Smith. “And he just went and cursed me out. I knew it was coming. I knew I should have caught the ball. I was expecting it.”

Smith said the same thing Dickerson said, though, and that is Saban could make men out of teenagers.

“Just being a man, nothing football related,” said Smith when asked what he will remember most about his coach. “What sticks out to me most is him teaching us to be men in life. Football can only take you so far, but the way you treat people and things like that, the way you carry yourself, takes you a whole lot further.”

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Added Dickerson: “The biggest thing I think he’s done is not necessarily the wins and losses on the field but developing those kids that come in, 17, 18-year-old kids that come in and teaching them how to be a man, how to carry yourself and how to have some accountability in life, to own up to things. That was the biggest thing he was able to teach me.”

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