Florida State Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher respects old boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban

By Daniel Aller, The Sports Xchange  |  Aug. 29, 2017 at 9:19 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Go ahead and try to get Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher to give No. 1 Alabama something to post on their bulletin board before Saturday night's mammoth season-opening showdown.

Not going to happen.

Try as the media might to get Fisher to divulge a story or two about his former boss and Alabama head coach Nick Saban during Monday's media availability, the eighth-year Florida State coach ducked and dodged all those questions, only saying time and again he tips his hat to the current Crowned Princes of the SEC ahead of their opener Saturday night in the Kickoff Classic in Atlanta.

And he also hopes the feeling's mutual.

"Nothing but respect for Alabama," Fisher said. "They've done a tremendous job with their program in the past, in the present, in the future. They have an outstanding coach. Nick (Saban) does as good a job as anybody, and does a great job preparing his team, and we know they'll be ready.

"But we're ready to play too. It's been a long camp but a very good camp. Been happy with camp and the progress we've made. Our camp, for the most part has been relatively healthy. Looking forward to an outstanding season. We'll find out (Saturday night)."

Fisher, who worked for seven seasons as an assistant under Saban when Saban was the head coach at LSU, will be facing the man who gave him his breakthrough job opportunity in the college ranks for the first time Saturday. They've only met one other time since then in 2007 -- which, coincidentally, is the last time these two programs played. That year -- a 21-14 Seminoles win -- marked Saban's first season at Alabama as the head coach and Fisher's first year as the offensive coordinator at Florida State.

But Fisher's and Saban's history actually runs much deeper.

They both grew up in small towns in West Virginia near one another, and Fisher said his family often drove through Saban's hometown on the way to visit their grandparents. Even then, he heard stories about Saban -- the player, that is.

"I knew of him," Fisher said of Saban, who was a star quarterback in high school long before he was a star coach. "We had to drive through the town to get to my grandfather's house. My father and them grew up right down there, and (Nick's high school) had won two or three state football titles."

The duo even became pretty good friends when they coached together.

"We used to play a lot of basketball," Fisher said when a laugh. "But he and I were on the same team. And we always won when we played. Nick was a good basketball player too. We were both very competitive. So being on the same team was fun."

They'll be on opposite sides Saturday night in what's being billed as the biggest season opener in college football history.

And rightfully so.

After all, a preseason No. 1 team has never opened against an opponent ranked higher than No. 4 -- and Fisher's Seminoles enter as the No. 3 team in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

In their last meeting in 2007, neither program was on solid ground as Florida State was in the decline during the final years of longtime coach Bobby Bowden, while Alabama was just starting to rebuild with Saban.

Fast forward 10 years later, and much is different.

"Both programs have drastically changed. In the last seven years, (we're now) the two winningest football teams in America," Fisher said. "They've won four national titles, we've won one. They have won four or five conference championships, and we've won three. It was a very hard, physical game in (2007) and both programs were in very similar situations and have progressed and come a long way."

That they have.

Florida State and Alabama are the only two teams in the country to finish in the AP Top 25 each of the past seven seasons, while Alabama (86 wins) and Florida State (78) are 1-2 in the nation in victories since 2010.

Of course, just because Fisher didn't engage in any trash talk this week in the lead-up, didn't mean others within the program would be walking the same line.

Namely, Florida State's own President, John Thrasher, who gave an eyebrow-raising quote to the school's official website, Seminoles.com, when asked about the Seminoles-Crimson Tide matchup late last week.

"I shouldn't talk too much trash, but I think we're gonna beat Alabama pretty bad next week," Thasher told the website. "I really do."

Game on.

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