Imagine you are on a used car lot, looking for a good buy. The salesman/owner, an intense wiry man with a polka-dotted tie whose height ranges from 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-11 (reports vary) approaches you and walks you through the cars on the lot. Through sheer determination, he convinces you to buy a pickup truck with more than 200,000 miles on it. As you sit in his office, pondering whether or not you made a good deal, a college football game plays on a television behind his desk. The salesman looks longingly at the TV and then gets back to business.
Believe it or not, that salesman could have been Nick Saban – minus the polka-dotted tie. Growing up in West Virginia’s coal country, Saban’s goal was to avoid a life in the mines by owning a car dealership. To the chagrin of every school in the SEC except Alabama and LSU, where he has collectively won five national championships, he chose a different path. Saban accepted a graduate assistant position with his alma mater, Kent State, and never looked back.
As Alabama gears up to play Kent State on Saturday, I thought it would be worth examining how successful Saban would be as a car salesman. My guess is that he would not have been putting around a used car lot. He would probably have been the biggest car dealer in the Ohio Valley. Here are three reasons why.
3. Tremendous Work Ethic
Saban’s work ethic is described and analyzed by college football pundits year in and year out. During the season, he systematically works 16-hour days and demands the same commitment from his staff. As a car dealer, the hours may not be as long, but the intensity would still be there. Of course, the hardest workers do not make the best salespeople. They could work 20 hours a day, but if they take the George Costanza approach to selling computers, then they will not be earning any commission. Saban would not fall into this trap because of the next two reasons.
2. Knowledge of the Industry
When you go to buy a car, you want a salesman who is truly knowledgeable of the vehicles and the industry. For example, if you walk onto the lot at a Buick dealership, anybody can tell you about gas mileage and the added cost for leather seats. A great one could tell you that the 2017 LaCrosse has a new V6 engine that provides 310 horsepower, six more than the previous year. If his knowledge of the automotive industry mirrors that of the game of football, Saban would be able to tell you that detail and every other aspect of every vehicle on the lot. He would expect the same from all of his salespeople.
1. He’s Already a Good Salesman
Recruiting is essentially selling high school players on why your program is the best for them and Alabama consistently brings in the best recruiting class every year. It could not do that if Saban wasn’t amazing at selling the tradition of Alabama and the benefits of playing for the school. Most importantly, once these players arrive in Tuscaloosa, Saban and his staff get the most out of them on the field. If you met him on a car lot, believe me, you would be driving away in a new vehicle.
Of course, things worked out for the best. Saban will likely tie or break Paul “Bear” Bryant’s record of six national championships and has no regrets about his chosen profession. If he had taken the alternative route and become the biggest car dealer in the Ohio Valley, he would probably still be looking longingly at that television on Saturdays.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.