I’ve been in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, all of twenty minutes when I hear my first Nick Saban-is-a-maniac story.
I’m in the office of a man named Steven Rumsey, who rents apartments to students and runs a trash-hauling company. He’s also an ace golfer. Tuscaloosa being a small town, Saban, a golf-addicted transplant, got hooked up with Rumsey, a golf-addicted local, and in the afternoons outside of football and recruiting seasons, the two men like to knock out eighteen holes before dark. Rumsey has likely spent more time with Saban than anyone besides family and assistant coaches since Saban came to Alabama and, I will learn during my time in Tuscaloosa, is one of the few people in town who isn’t terrified of the man.
The story is this: A few days after Alabama beat LSU to win the 2012 national championship, Rumsey and Saban were on the phone together. Most of their conversations take place precisely between 7:12 A.M. and 7:17 A.M., when Saban calls as he drives to work. But this call happened to be in the afternoon. The two men almost never discuss football—Rumsey is the rare Tuscaloosan who doesn’t know or care much about the game, which, he suspects, has something to do with why he and Saban have become friends. But given that his golf buddy had just won the national championship, Rumsey figured he ought to say a few words of congratulations. So he did, telling Saban his team had pulled off an impressive win.
"That damn game cost me a week of recruiting," Saban grumbled into the phone.