TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The statue rests nearest to the football stadium here on Alabama's campus. Bent at the knees, hands frozen mid-clap, the image of Nick Saban stands 9 feet tall, a towering tribute to the man who returned the Crimson Tide to glory with a national championship in 2009.
A new eight-year, $55.2 million deal agreed to in December ensures that Saban belongs to Alabama. But his legacy isn't Alabama's alone. His career has been a methodical process that in a few months will enter its third decade as a head coach and its 40th season as a coach overall. During that span, he's developed into college football's most successful head coach, a man with four national championships who is closing in quickly on the top 25 of the sport's all-time win list despite spending eight years away in the NFL.
He did it without taking shortcuts. There were stops in Morgantown, West Virginia; Annapolis, Maryland; East Lansing, Michigan; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He worked in four cities in Ohio alone: Kent, Toledo, Columbus and Cleveland. Each was a step toward what he has built in Tuscaloosa.
Time and experience have carved subtle differences into Saban's appearance, but like a statue, what's on the inside has remained the same.
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