Before attending the Boy Scout American Values Luncheon, I heard a few jokes about Nick Saban being the keynote speaker, mostly based on his reputation as a curt, no-nonsense handler of the press and a man of few words. So, what does a four-time national championship coach have to say to a roomful of Boy Scouts? As it turns out–plenty.
On my honor, I will do my best...
I like Nick Saban—I don’t care what anyone else says about him. I like the way he works, lives and coaches football with passion. I have an affinity for a person who does not suffer the foolish–the naïve journalist who asks a question that is patently rhetorical or the person who throws away opportunity. Conversely, Saban values those who make the most of the opportunities they are given.
This was poignantly illustrated in the address, which preceded Saban’s speech, given by Eagle Scout, André Jackman, and his mother, Gillian Jackman. Mrs. Jackman told the story of how she and André’s father immigrated separately to the United States from Trinidad, before renewing an old acquaintance. They subsequently married and became United States citizens. About 2 years after they relocated to Alabama so her husband could take a job in the automotive industry, Mrs. Jackman’s husband was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer; six months later he died, leaving her with two young sons to raise by herself. Mrs. Jackman shared with the crowd, “I knew I needed to find mentors and big brothers who were willing to help me teach my sons how to be young men.” As Mrs. Jackman wondered how she could possibly raise two sons without a father to help guide them, a fellow church member kept encouraging her to get her boys involved in Scouting. Despite her initial reluctance and because of the Scout leader’s persistence, Mrs. Jackman finally gave into her sons’ pleas to join Troop 372, and now they are both Eagle Scouts.
Mrs. Jackman told the crowd more than once how proud she was of her two sons’ attainment of their Eagle Scout rank, and how Scouting had provided positive male role models and instilled solid values in her sons’ lives. “The lessons they have learned–there was no way I could have taught them.” It was the story of opportunity, hard work, and eventual success. When Saban took the podium after hearing Mrs. Jackman’s story, his first remarks were addressed to the mother and son: “Scouting helped create some important opportunities for André and his brother, and that is a good thing.” In typical Saban-fashion he used an economy of words to acknowledge the Boy Scout program historically has helped create opportunities for young men to overcome adverse circumstances and develop character in the process.
to do my duty…
Saban was the poster-child for a “purpose-driven life” long before the term was made popular by pastor Rick Warren. Saban is perhaps best known for his Process: 1) vision 2) plan and 3) execution. Even though Saban has never been a Boy Scout, this reads like an Eagle Scout project plan. Read almost any article that has ever been written about Saban and it is full of his strategies for accomplishing his winning purpose. “Finish,” is perhaps his most famous and succinct quote, which inspired the ultimate cap-worthy quote following a national championship win: “Done.” It is also the quote that most clearly represents his work ethic and life philosophy. Listen to a leadership seminar conducted by Saban, and it will ring with the words work ethic, discipline, consistency; listen to the Scout Law, and it begins with, “A Scout is trustworthy.”
to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight…
“Be where your feet are.” As Saban uttered these words, taken from a West Virginia proverb, the Scouters in the packed room sat and waited patiently for an explanation. “If you think about what has happened in the past, you either become depressed or you become complacent.” Several Alabama fans in the room were probably thinking of the poor performance of their favorite team at the end of the previous season. “If you think about the future, you become anxious.” Saban continued to explain that the wise think about what they can do today to get to the goals they have set. He emphasized the importance of being completely focused on the task at hand. Several parents of Life Scouts in the room were probably hoping their sons were listening.
and in closing…
Following his address to the Scouts, Saban opened the floor for questions. The first question, “Why don’t you smile?” brought a roar of laughter from the crowd. Saban answered, “I am really a happy person.” When questioned about his team’s lackluster performance at the end of the 2013-2014 season, Saban responded, “Last year they were complacent; they lost respect for winning and failed to do the little things well.”
This was a great way to end his remarks to a crowd of Scouting enthusiasts. Being trustworthy and consistent, even in the little things, is integral to the Saban Process. It is also a key component to the character of Scouting and Eagle Scouts discover this is what sets them apart from other young men—being able to finish strong, in spite of difficult tasks or circumstances, and being consistent in their character. While Saban may have never been an Eagle Scout, his life and work philosophies are consistent with many elements of the Scout Oath and Law. Saban’s presence, along with special guests Mark Ingram and master of ceremonies Eli Gold, helped the Greater Alabama Council raise funds to make the Scouting program available to young men in our region for another year, and for that we are grateful.
Vulcan District Committee
Roll Tide! Roll!