PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Less than 12 hours removed from winning his fourth national championship at Alabama, Nick Saban wasn't in the mood to reflect on the past.
With offensive player of the game O.J. Howard and defensive player of the game Eddie Jackson both seated to his right, Saban fielded a wide range of questions with the topics covering the resilience of this championship team to how he thinks the playoff and bowl system can be improved.
While reporters wanted to talk about the historical significance of this championship victory over Clemson or Saban's mortality as a coach, the five-time national championship winning coach's laser focus wouldn't allow him to entertain those type of hypotheticals.
"I can't really talk to you much more about the perspective and the significance of this, because moving forward, it doesn't really mean a lot," Saban said during his Tuesday morning news conference.
For those who believe Saban's age may soon slow him down, don't hold your breathe. At 64, Saban still has the fire and passion for winning, and the drive to outwork most on the recruiting trail. But beyond that, he doesn't see himself doing anything else. Saban has been a part of a team "since I was 9 years old."
"It scares me to ever think of the day when I wouldn't be a part of the team," Saban said. "The feeling that you
get being associated with a group like this makes you want to do it more. That's kind of how I feel about it. I know you can't do this forever, but I certainly enjoy the moment and certainly look forward to the future challenges that we have and really have no timetable for ever not being a part of a team."
This is going to be an offseason filled with turnover for Alabama. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is already in Athens, Ga., engulfed in his new life as Georgia's head coach. Leaders such as Reggie Ragland, Ryan Kelly, Cyrus Jones, Geno Matias-Smith, Jarran Reed, Jake Coker and many more are out of eligibility. There are also plenty of key juniors who could forgo their senior seasons in hopes of chasing NFL dreams. Jackson, Howard and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry are among the key underclassmen who have decisions to make in the coming days. The underclassmen are scheduled to meet with Saban on Wednesday about their futures.
But as he typically does, Saban is prepared for the change and has a plan.
"When you have success, and we've had this just about every year, I think it's a transition that every team has to go through, and it's like taking a new job," Saban said. "It's a new season, it's a new team, new group of guys, new leadership. People are in different roles and that's the challenge each and every year. Obviously recruiting is important and continuity is important in recruiting. Players are important in recruiting, relationships are important in recruiting."
Throughout the years, Saban has developed the reputation of being a tyrant. Yes, he's hard on the players and is sometimes harsh with the media. But the true takeaway from Saban's coaching style and personality is the fact that the players know how tough he can be, but still bust their butts to please him and win for him.
A number of Saban's former players at Alabama packed the sidelines for the Tide's championship game including stars like Mark Ingram, C.J. Mosley, Amari Cooper, Julio Jones, Landon Collins and Marcell Dareus. Don't be surprised if this current group is spotted walking around the athletic complex or at games once their respective careers are over.
"Coach Saban is Coach Saban, regardless, on and off the field," said Jackson, who made a key interception in the game. "He's a great coach, a great mentor. Just seeing him with a smile on his face, it was just a great feeling because we know we accomplished something that we worked hard for, came up short two years in a row. We just really wanted to accomplish what we accomplished, it just feels good."
Howard, who caught five passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns, agreed with Jackson.
"Coach Saban has got a coach's heart," Howard said. "We know business is business when we get on that field and we take everything serious, but we have a second side to us when we win. Off the field, Coach Saban jokes with us. He laughed like you guys saw last night, and he deserves that. When you win, you should have fun and celebrate."
Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @Marq_Burnett.