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More than meets the eye

Corey Miller didn't know what to expect when he pulled up to Nick Saban's house for a party two years ago. His son, Christian, was in Tuscaloosa for an official visit at Alabama, and Saban and his wife, Terry, were hosting an event for the recruits' parents.

All Miller knew was that there was supposed to be karaoke.

 

 

"I remember there was a security guard at his house when we showed up, and I'm thinking, 'A karaoke party at Nick Saban's house? How much fun can that be?'" recalled Miller, a former linebacker with the New York Giants. "I was like a lot of people. You have this vision of Nick Saban that he's very serious and never smiles … and then you see a whole different person."

Miller might have been expecting a football droid that night. What he got was John Travolta and a scene right out of "Saturday Night Fever."

"Let me tell you, Coach Saban is smooth, especially when he and Miss Terry get out there and start doing the electric slide with everybody," said Miller, who works now as a sports anchor for Fox 57 in Columbia, South Carolina. "He brings out that karaoke machine, and they crank it up. Everybody was singing and dancing. Coach [Burton] Burns was the DJ, and we're all out there sweating and getting down, and there's Coach Saban about 10 feet from you doing the same. It was a blast."

It's safe to say no one would be surprised to see the guy Saban will match wits with Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET) on the dance floor.

By now, we've established that Clemson's Dabo Swinney is an elite football coach and a renowned dancer.

OK, maybe "renowned" is stretching it when describing Swinney's dancing prowess, but the guy loves to dance. He dances in the locker room after big wins. He dances on his boat while spending the day on the lake with his players. He is coaching's version of Fred Astaire, or for those with more modern tastes, Ne-Yo.

"Coach always has a new step, or we get him to try new steps," Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson said. "That's just who he is, and he's not afraid to be who he is. That's what makes playing for him so much fun."

As the climactic game of the college football season approaches, it's difficult to imagine two more contrasting coaching styles than Swinney's theatrical, life-of-the-party approach and Saban's regimented, buttoned-up process.

Outwardly, at least.

But when you peel both guys back, and look a little deeper and remove their public personas, there are more similarities between the two than most would ever imagine. And to a degree, both have probably been miscast.

"Sometimes people get the misconception that Coach Saban is miserable, but he's really not," said former Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones, who was a part of three national championship teams at Alabama under Saban and now plays in the NFL. "He just loves the grind. That's what he loves. Once you understand that about him, it's different. He enjoys getting in his office and watching film. He loves practice. He loves preparing his teams. But he's not always like that. He jokes around and loves to give guys a hard time. He definitely has a fun side to him that maybe everybody doesn't see."

And believe it or not, Saban is allegedly a much more accomplished dancer than he demonstrated with his halfhearted "T-Rex" following Alabama's victory over Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

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