Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 7/18/13
They slip him in the back like Elvis, surrounded by an entourage of serious-looking men in dark suits and red ties. Nick Saban entered the Wynfrey Hotel through a service elevator that went straight from a parking deck to a kitchen on the second floor. When he finally entered the hallway for his SEC Media Days obligations, the circus began. Saban showed no hint of surprise when 15 TV cameramen surrounded him and spotlights flooded his path. One of the cameramen walked backward, showing remarkable dexterity as he filmed and backpedaled without tripping over anything or anyone. Between television shoots and entering the grand ballroom where he took questions from print and Internet media, Saban was trailed by no fewer than 30 local reporters attempting to film or record his every step and utterance. And this was in a restrictive area for credentialed media only. By contrast, Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin meandered through the Wynfrey unmolested just minutes before Sabans arrival. In fact, Franklin went from the FOX Sports South interview room to the restroom without so much as a snapshot. Les Miles came through the front door of the hotel and signed several autographs before venturing up the escalator for LSUs session, while Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger hung around the soda dispenser, unrecognized by many and ignored by others. That is never the case for Saban, whose travels through Alabama generate the sort of fan outpouring that Michael Jordon experienced during his championship days with the Bulls and that Muhammad Ali lived every day of the 1960s and '70s. Hundreds of Alabama fans packed the lobby of the hotel, most wearing jerseys or other Crimson Tide gear. Shannon Villa from Birmingham showed up in a hat shaped like an Alabama national championship ring, the same rings that Saban himself wont wear because he said the players designed them and they look like ashtrays. Im so excited to be here, Villa said as he posed for photos. Ive been waiting since 7 a.m., but there were a ton of people way before us, so I dont know what time they got here. It was a few minutes past noon at the time. Saban wouldnt make to the lobby for another two hours. I just want to get Coach Saban, Villa said. If I get his autograph itll be the highlight of my life, and even if I dont get it, Ill be a happy guy. This experience is amazing. So, what caused people to wait for seven hours just to gain a glimpse of a college football coach? Why the exuberance to simply be near Saban? Hes a rock star, no doubt about it, said Danny Crenshaw from Gardendale, Ala., who arrived at the Wynfrey at 10 a.m., relatively late, but still four hours before Saban would bless the fans with his presence. Hes bringing the crystal and the respect back to Tuscaloosa. Its awesome and we love him. Certainly the passion of SEC fans is unmatched in college football, but the star worship of Saban goes much deeper. There is a social construct in play, a sense of shared identity and revival among those who gathered in Hoover to cheer and chant and hopefully see their hero. I got spoiled for many years, Crenshaw said. We all got spoiled in the Bear (Bryant) days. But then we went through a long dry spell. Now were back and were going to ride this horse as long as it lasts.
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