WATCH & LISTEN: The Enigma of Nick Saban from LSU’s perspective. Former LSU great Michael Clayton talks the GOAT

Nick Saban won his first and most dear National Championship at LSU in 2003
Nick Saban won his first and arguably his most dear National Championship at LSU in 2003
Nick Saban’s heart always belonged to LSU’s Audibles podcast hosted by Camryn Conner – Episode 53 – January 11 2024 – The Enigma of Nick Saban from LSU’s perspective. Former LSU wide receiver great Michael Clayton talks about the GOAT and, specifically, about his time at LSU from 2000-2004 in a must-hear interview with Tiger Rag Radio Host & Louisiana Radio Network’s Sports Director Jeff Palermo. Saban will always be remembered as Alabama’s coach, but when you hear Clayton’s conversation with Palermo you’ll understand why the GOAT belonged to LSU first and Saban’s heart always belonged to LSU.

The greatest coach of all time and the greatest coach in the history of college football, has left the building.

Nick Saban, who will forever be remembered as Alabama’s football coach, retired on Wednesday, shocking most of the sports world with his decision.

But, the truth, the legendary Saban, belonged to LSU long before he belonged to the Crimson Tide. LSU football has always, since Saban left the Tigers after the 2004 season, had a love-hate relationship with legendary Nick Saban.

LSU fans loved Saban because in 2003 he won his first national championship with the Tigers, LSU’s first since 1958, 45 years, or a lifetime before.

But even though that was a significant and major milestone in LSU history, Saban’s impact on the LSU football program has endured, whether LSU football fans like it or not.

Nick Saban literally unleashed the giant that is LSU football today.

That’s the love part for LSU football fans.

The hate part is equally as fervent.

Saban left LSU after the Capitol One Bowl game loss to Iowa on January 1, 2005, to become the head coach for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. In effect, realizing a lifelong dream of his of becoming an NFL head coach. LSU may not have liked it, but they could forgive Saban for that, especially since Saban had had annual dalliances with the NFL all four years while he was at LSU.

Of course, what LSU football fans could not overcome, was what happened next.

After two short seasons in Miami, Nick Saban gave up the NFL ghost and returned to college football where he over the next 17 seasons realized his position as the greatest college football coach of all time.

Problem was, of course, it was with LSU’s most hated rival – Alabama. And over the next 17 seasons, while Saban accumulated an unprecedented 6 national championships for the hated Gumps, he proved to be a constant thorn in LSU football’s side, compiling a 13 and 5 record against the Tigers over that nightmarish span, including a 2012 BCS national championship in a rematch in New Orleans of the “Game of the century” that haunts LSU football to this day.

Turns out, Saban, who will forever be remembered by everyone as Alabama’s great football coach, belonged to LSU first. And, it could be argued, that LSU was always first in Saban’s heart, as well.

In an article published in a 2019 edition of USA Today Sports, Saban said he wished he would have never left LSU and counted that as the biggest regret of his career.

Nick Saban is one of the most winningest coaches in college football. Out of 368 games he’s coached in college football, he has won 297 of them. His record at LSU was 48-16 having won 2 SEC championships during his four years at LSU and a national championship during the 2003 season with the Tigers. Saban has cemented his success in college football by finishing up at number 5 on the all-time win list, only 112 wins behind the all-time leader Joe Paterno. Saban has 297 total wins, a win percentage of 80.7%, and 19 bowl game wins. If there’s one thing about Nick Saban is that his teams never finish with a losing record. Now we’re going to listen to Michael Clayton a star wide receiver who played under Saban on the 2003 national championship team as he talks about the greatness of Nick Saban as a coach at LSU along with the news and sports director of the Louisiana Radio Network Jeff Palermo.

Michael Clayton and Jeff Palermo’s Interview 4:58 – 14:06

  1. Michael’s reaction to Nick Saban retiring
    1. 5 – 6:09
  2. “I got a little bit of a chisel because y’know it’s been a long journey trying to chase down Alabama since coach Saban arrived… I said quietly to myself “LSU is back, baby!””
  3. With him retiring the landscape of college football will look different.
  4. “Sad to see him go but I’m also thankful because I’m die-hard LSU all the way and I know this gives us a winning edge moving forward.”
  5. What made him a great coach? You got to see him maybe before his prime? And recruitment / first thoughts of when you met him that made him a great coach.
    1. 6:11 – 9:31
  6. “Two things that come to mind honesty and loyalty and paying attention to detail.”
  7. The first time I met him was at my home, I didn’t know who he was. He came over on a Sunday. 
  8. “I didn’t have a lot of Caucasian people in my house and coach Saban shows up in a blue blazer, yellow undershirt, gold chain, with some penny loafers with no socks and I said, “This is the coolest white boy I ever seen in my life.””
  9. He went to church with Clayton’s family and spent the day with his family.
  10. LSU didn’t recruit inner-city, but Saban wanted to change that and wanted Clayton to be a part of that change.
  11. Growing up, LSU wasn’t a popular university in our community, and coach Saban came in and changed my mind. He called other top recruits that he knew and put the pieces together to consider staying at home. 
  12. He was a man of honesty and told me that I’d be that guy and every of my career at LSU he made me – he set aside time for me to do a walkthrough on defense and he allowed me to play special teams and defense. He kind of built me in my own schedule for me to be the best athlete I could be, and I enjoyed every minute under his leadership and did everything in my power to make sure that every man who came through there who wore a uniform listened to him and followed his direction and we were all successful.”
  13. What kind of competitor was he?
    1. 9:32 – 11:35
  14. “Everyone will remember his buttcheck grabbing when he’s yelling on the sidelines when we’re up 21 or blowing somebody out, still fired up. People will remember that guy. He’s a highly competitive guy.”
  15. “Depending on who you are, he’s like a chameleon he’ll blend in with you.”
  16. It was different for some guys, but I was lucky enough to have a close-knit relationship with him.
  17.  “he had his charisma, he had his likeability, and he never lost that even when he was a fiery competitor.”
  18. Saban’s in-game strategy
    1. 11:37 – 13:48
  19. “He was a one of one”
  20. “it’ll be hard to duplicate what he did.”
  21. Goes through naming different players on the team that Saban helped reform and his masterful way of knowing the game and knowing what best fits his players.
  22. “There was never a time when we went on the football field questioning what the game plan was or our ability to win the game.”
  23. “He presented the game of football in a way that made you believe you can win every game.”
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Tiger Rag News Services

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