Nick Saban appears to be at his happiest right now ahead of the Alabama football games

It doesn’t get more intense than Nick Saban on a match day. Before and after his team’s competitions, you might see him a few times: a pre-game interview with ESPN, the Walk of Champions, his post-game press conference. Saban is focused all the time on getting the job done, but there’s a moment of lightheartedness from the hyper-serious trainer that you catch just minutes before the tide begins.

We have seen Saban released many times not to imply that the man is incapable of feeling joy. Alabama fans know better than anyone that the coach is quite a fun guy, thanks to his weekly radio show, annual lake parties, or hilarious mic clips. Just when it’s time to put on the pads for games or to improve during training, he sets the intensity.

But over the years we’ve amassed several pregame photos of Saban, seemingly at his most relaxed pre-kick-off moments when everything is at stake for his program. Focus on midfield where Saban seems genuinely happy to have a quick chat with another head coach and usually shares a big smile with the opponent of the day. Saban seems most relaxed during these conversations, even when it’s with a perceived rival or the coach of a “cupcake” team. You’ll catch a glimpse of two head coaches as they share the experience of leading their teams into competition after a week of preparation. Maybe he just enjoys talking to someone who’s doing what he’s doing, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Before the Alabama-Ole Miss game in 2021 Lane Kiffin gave Paul Finebaum and the world of college football watching, an explanation of what is actually said during those on-field encounters and greetings between coaches before the game. “They’re really irrelevant,” Kiffin said of pre-game discussions with opposing coaches. “Both people are ready for the game. It’s really just a tradition they have.

“You walk out there and he says ‘Welcome,'” he said of his conversations with Saban. “Talk about the weather. How’s everything? (I’ll ask) How’s Miss Terry? That’s all.” He continued, “I mean, what do people really think we’re talking about out there? “Hey, we’re really going to work on your safety today with some double moves.” I mean, there’s just not much to say.”

In the gallery above or the photos below, take a look at the images that document the famously focused coach taking a moment to relax and enjoy what he and his contemporary do for a living.

For starters, we’ve already seen this from Saban in 2022 with opposing coaches like Steve Sarkisian (his former assistant) from Texas or Terry Bowden from Louisiana-Monroe.

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian (left) and Alabama head coach Nick Saban (right) meet on the field during team warm-up practice prior to an NCAA college football game Saturday September 10, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Rodolfo Gonzalez)AP

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Louisiana-Monroe head coach Terry Bowden, left, chats with Alabama head coach Nick Saban before an NCAA college football game on Saturday, September 17, 2022 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)AP

He may always have a hundred cameras on him on a game day, but Saban manages to get going before kick-off, even with former assistant and Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher. The two notably exchanged opinions on how NIL affects recruitment, with Fisher getting particularly heated, but they both insist there is water under the bridge. We’ll be looking for a similarly warm encounter on October 8 when the Aggies visit Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Nick Saban opposing coaches

FILE – Alabama head coach Nick Saban (left) and Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher (right) shake hands during pregame of an NCAA college football game Saturday, October 9, 2021 in College Station, Texas . Alabama will play Texas A&M on October 8, 2022 in Tuscaloosa. (AP Photo/Sam Craft, file)AP

Who wouldn’t chuckle with Lane Kiffin, Saban’s former offensive coordinator and new rival in SEC West? As mentioned above, Kiffin insists that during the pre-game meeting, the coaches don’t discuss anything particularly important, but rather what makes Nick Saban laugh This? Maybe it’s just Kiffin, one of the funniest personalities in college football.

Alabama

Mississippi head coach Lane Kiffin, left, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban laugh as they chat before an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt )AP

Even Saban’s biggest “rivals” draw a rare wink, with trainers like Gus Malzahn, Gene Chizik, Les Miles, Hugh Freeze and Ed Orgeron chuckling with the legendary trainer.

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and Alabama head coach Nick Saban speak before the Iron Bowl on Saturday, November 28, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama (Julie Bennett/[email protected])AL.COM

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Alabama coach Nick Saban and Auburn coach Gene Chizik laugh during pregame at Jordan Hare Stadium at Pat Dye Field in Auburn, Alabama, Friday, November 27, 2009. (The Huntsville Times/Robin Conn)Hvt HV

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Alabama head coach Nick Saban greets LSU head coach Les Miles before the No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 13 LSU NCAA football game, Saturday November 9, 2013, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Vasha Hunt)AP

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze and Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban speak before the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Saturday September 28, 2013. (Mark Almond/[email protected])

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Alabama head coach Nick Saban greets LSU head coach Ed Orgeron prior to the football game between Alabama and LSU SEC on Saturday, November 4, 2017 at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Vasha Hunt)AP

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaks with Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen before the Alabama vs. Mississippi State SEC football game on Saturday, November 12, 2016 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Vasha Hunt ).AP

Saban doesn’t seem to mind when another coach gets the best of him on the gridiron like Dabo Swinney did (twice) on the biggest stag when Clemson coached or Kevin Sumlin did when he was Johnny Football to Bryant- Denny brought .

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney speak before Alabama’s College Football Playoff National Championship football game with Clemson, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. (Vasha Hunt)AP

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Alabama head coach Nick Saban greets Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin during warm-up practice before Alabama’s football game with Texas A&M on Saturday, October 17, 2015 at Kyle Stadium in College Station, Texas. (Vasha Hunt)AP

What really shows is the respect Saban and his opposing coaches have for each other, and the CV doesn’t matter. Coaches have a lot in common and can tell stories for days as each knows what the other is experiencing on a daily basis as they create a program and guide a group of young men at critical times in their lives. But you see the awe Saban has for coaches like David Cutcliffe, Frank Beamer and Mark Richt. Or the joy he might feel when competing against former assistants like Jim McElwain and Will Muschamp. Or the parallels he can draw with leaders of smaller programs like Mark Spier in Western Carolina (or Terry Bowden in Louisiana-Monroe, above).

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Duke coach David Cutcliffe meets with Alabama coach Nick Saban before the game on Saturday September 18, 2010 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC (Press Register, GM Andrews)PRESS REGISTRATION

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer greet each other during pregame during the NCAA No. 1 soccer game Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, Saturday, August 31, 2013, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. (Vasha Hunt )AP

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik greets Alabama coach Nick Saban during the Alabama vs. Auburn Iron Bowl NCAA football game, Saturday November 24, 2012, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Vasha Hunt)AP

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt and Alabama Coach Nick Saban meet in midfield before the Alabama vs Georgia SEC Championship NCAA football game, Saturday December 1, 2012, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. (Vasha Hunt)AP

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain meet before the NCAA No. 1 soccer game Alabama vs. Colorado State on Saturday September 21, 2013 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Vasha Hunt)AP

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Alabama Coach Nick Saban and Western Carolina Coach Mark Speir chat before the NCAA soccer game Alabama vs. Western Carolina, Saturday, November 17, 2012, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Vasha Hunt)AP

Nick Saban opposing coaches

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp speak before the Iron Bowl on Saturday, November 28, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama (Julie Bennett/[email protected] ).AL.COM

More about football in Alabama:

8 “hateful competitors” who helped define football in Alabama under Nick Saban

Mike Price, Lane Kiffin, and the shortest SEC football coaching tenures in modern times

The 10 ugliest wins in Alabama football under Nick Saban

How Alabama fans hilariously interpret a Nick Saban smile

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