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At Monday’s press conference Mark Stoops revealed that once upon a time he was recruited by Nick Saban, something I had never heard before… or at least I thought. Stoops actually talked about it at his weekly press conference the last time Kentucky traveled to Alabama back in 2016. Sadly, I remember the second half of the story, but not the part where Stoops dumped Saban and it didn’t go well. Without further adieu, enjoy this fun trip down memory lane.
Did you know Nick Saban once recruited Mark Stoops? Me neither. At today’s press conference, Mark Stoops told the story of how a young Nick Saban recruited Stoops to Michigan State when he was a defensive backs coach in the mid 1980’s.
“I admire an awful lot about Coach Saban. It’s hard to define all of those things, but anybody that’s in this business, the coaching profession is built on respect. I have great respect for what he’s done and how disciplined he is and the work ethic that he has, but I always think he does things right. He does things with class, he treats people the right way. How can you not admire that? It goes way back to the days he recruited me out of high school. He was the position coach, the recruiting area coach, that recruited me to Michigan State.”
“I was not a very good player, first of all. I got recruited by Iowa, my visits were Iowa and Ohio State. My two brothers had played at Iowa, so I visited Iowa, I visited Ohio State, and I knew if I didn’t go to Ohio State, I would go to Iowa because of the relationships I had with those coaches and I wasn’t going to go anywhere else. So, I canceled my visit to Michigan State.”
“That call didn’t go very well,” Stoops said to several laughs. “I was really young and naive and I had no clue. I knew I wasn’t a great player or anything like that, so I couldn’t believe — he made it very difficult for me. I remember getting off the phone and going, ‘wow.’ But he was very persuasive and very good. I’ve always had great respect for Coach.”
That wasn’t the only great Saban story that Stoops had to share. His uncle Bob was a head coach at an inner city school in Youngstown, Ohio, and, one day, Saban stopped by to do some recruiting, and afterwards, they went out for some refreshments.
“He and my uncle Bob were at an establishment after recruiting one day in the spring,” Stoops said. “My uncle was the head coach at an inner city school in Youngstown and Coach Saban and my uncle were out and — Coach will tell this story better than me — They were talking X’s and O’s and got so wrapped up in the X’s and O’s they had no idea someone came and robbed the place at gunpoint.”
Stoops said he didn’t believe the story — “I always thought my uncle was a little full of it” — until he heard Saban confirm it during one of his radio shows.
Must have been one hell of a conversation they were having.
UPDATE: At his press conference, Nick Saban was asked about recruiting Stoops back in the day and had this response:
“Mark was a really good player. We tried to get him, but we didn’t. Hayden Fry had that family locked up.”