TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Cold be damned as Alabama fans lined up in droves for the Crimson Tide's national championship celebration parade in 30-degree weather.
It was a sea of Crimson as fans packed the sidewalks and grass areas between University Boulevard at Denny Chimes and Bryant-Denny Stadium to see their beloved players, coaches and support staff walk the seven-minute parade.
During the short ride or walk for some, Tide coach Nick Saban and players tossed miniature footballs and Mardi Gras-style beads that read "National Champions" and had the score of the Tide's 45-40 victory over Clemson printed on them.
In all, the celebration lasted about 43 minutes as dignitaries such as Alabama athletic director Bill Battle, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Alabama president Dr. Stuart Bell and coach Nick Saban took the microphone to speak to the crowd. Chancellor Dr. Robert Witt was also in attendance for the celebration that was emceed by Eli Gold.
Battle spoke first and jokingly thanked the fans for showing up on such a "nice, warm afternoon" while praising Saban and the team.
"Winning four national championships in seven years is unprecedented," Battle said as the fans cheered.
Before presenting Saban and Alabama with the Cotton Bowl trophy, Cotton Bowl chairman Dan Novakov called Tuscaloosa the "mecca of college football."
As Sankey walked to the microphone, fans showed conference pride and chanted "S-E-C, S-E-C." Sankey played to the crowd stating
that the chant was "music to my ears."
"I started as the eighth commissioner of the Southeastern Conference on June 1, and I spent a lot of time listening to people wonder if we were still the best conference in college football," Sankey said. "No one is wondering anymore."
Jake Coker, Reggie Ragland, Ryan Kelly and Derrick Henry -- Alabama's four permanent captains -- all took turns at the microphone for 30 seconds or so.
"I've never had so much fun playing football in my life," Coker said. "Y'all (fans) have been the biggest part of that. I can't tell you how much I appreciate y'all for coming out. Thank y'all for everything."
Ragland, who was a freshman on the 2012 championship team, thanked his teammates for supporting him through both the "good times and the bad times."
"They know I had a lot of bad times, and if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I'm at now," Ragland said. "Roll Tide."
Kelly was around for the 2011 and 2012 national championship teams. A three-year starter at Alabama, Kelly said he's "fortunate I can always call this place my home."
"That's because of all of the people here today and all of the fans who make playing in this place so special," said Kelly, an Ohio native. "Also, all of the guys who are standing behind me who are my brothers and all of the coaches who put so much work into making us men. I'd just like to say thank you. It's been an incredible opportunity. Roll Tide."
Before Henry came up, Gold joked about how long it would take to read off all of Henry's accomplishments. In one season, Henry delivered Alabama's second Heisman Trophy award, won the Doak Walker and broke numerous school and SEC records along the way.
"God has been very good to us, and I'm very fortunate," Henry said. "Thank y'all for everything. Roll Tide."
But it was Saban who closed the show. Saban said this team was able to accomplishment their goals because there was no "selfishness on this team."
Saban wants this team to be remembered not only for how skilled they were and how they finished the season, but also for the "heart that they played with and the character that they showed as competitors in winning this championship."
Saban called this title the "most special," adding that it's not about how many championships the Tide has won in the past.
"This championship and this day is for this team, and what they were able to accomplish and what they were able to do," Saban said. "We are here to show gratitude for this team, this group of guys and all that they did to make it an exciting year for all the fans and all of us coaches and give us a memory that will live even beyond our lives."
-- Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org