How not to be scared of even Nick Saban

I learned quickly not to be scared or intimidated.

As a wide-eyed sophomore, I sat near the back of the Naylor Stone Media Suite at a Nick Saban press conference and grabbed the microphone, hands trembling.

I had been assigned to ask a question for a story another Crimson White reporter was doing about conference expansion affecting the annual Tennessee game.

Saban gave me a fairly cordial answer, but then a switch flipped.

“I could give a s**t about all that,” he said, throwing his hands up. “You all create so many problems.”

Here was Saban, one of the most powerful men in all of sports, lashing out on a tirade about media distractions, and I was the one feeling the brunt of it.

But when Nick Saban is yelling at you, there’s really nothing you can do about it. There is no reason to be scared. He will not shoot lasers out of his eyes or release you and your chair into a pit of doom. In that moment, he is just a 5-foot-6-inch man behind a podium (and 5-foot-6-inch may be generous).

Just smile and nod – it makes the whole thing seem so ridiculous.

It was one of the first of many lessons I learned in nearly three years covering Alabama, and it’s stuck with me since.

The Crimson White was my first way to break onto the football beat. It was a privilege to work with Marq Burnett last year and Charlie Potter this year, which was unfortunately cut a few months short when a “real job” came calling. We had the hardest working writers an editor could ask for. And Mark Mayfield is the best faculty advisor in the country.

I found a trusted mentor and friend in Aaron Suttles, who taught a writing lab and taught me to think critically about the nuances of writing and reporting.

All of the beat writers, present and past that I saw nearly every day never hesitated to lend a helping hand to a humble student reporter. I’m so grateful for guys like Izzy Gould, Chris Walsh, Andrew Gribble, John Zenor, Lars Anderson, Michael Casagrande, Matt Scalici, D.C. Reeves and many more offered advice, solicited or not. Watching them do their job every day taught me more than I’d ever learn in a classroom.

My time on the beat took me to Baton Rouge, where a stadium full of LSU fans singing “Calling Baton Rouge” sent chills down my spine; Atlanta, for an SEC Championship game so good I thought it couldn’t be topped; Miami, where we broke the biggest pre-game story of the BCS Championship, and I watched a modern day dynasty emerge; and Auburn where, as painful as it was for Alabama fans to stomach, I witnessed the greatest ending ever to a college football game.

The Alabama media relations staff always treated me like a professional, even when I was just a sophomore getting dressed down by Saban. I always appreciated that. We had our differences at times, but if we hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been doing my job right.

I am graduating, but I am not leaving. I’ll still be in Tuscaloosa covering the team for BamaOnline.com, but it won’t be quite the same without the late nights in the newsroom.

I never really have considered myself an Alabama fan, coming from out-of-state and jumping right into the objective journalism mindset. But I’ll never forget where I spent the best four years of my life and learned not to be scared of anyone or anything.

Yes, even Nick Saban.

Marc Torrence was the sports editor of The Crimson White.

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