Smith Jr.: Saban Got More Out Of Me Than Anyone Could

The Alabama tight end prospect opened up about Nick Saban, the NFL Draft and whether Clemson has supplanted Auburn as the Tide's biggest rival

The DA Show
February 19, 2019 - 1:01 pm

USA Today Images


Alabama is known for two things: competing for (and often winning) national championships, and sending players to the NFL. Tight end prospect Irv Smith Jr. is no exception. In fact, many NFL Draft analysts have Smith Jr. going in the first round.

This is not a coincidence.

“I’d say greatness,” Smith Jr. said on The DA Show, when asked to describe in one word what it’s like playing for Nick Saban. “It’s very demanding, but the end result is worth it. I played three years at Alabama, and I played in three national championships. Not many people can say they’ve done that. At the end of the day, the end result is all worth it.”

Smith Jr. caught 58 passes for 838 yards and 10 touchdowns in his Alabama career. He believes Saban got more out of him than any other coach would have.

“Yeah, most definitely,” Smith Jr. said. “If I would have went somewhere else, I probably would have played early my freshman year. But right after camp coming in, I knew I wasn’t really ready to start. I felt like behind behind O.J. (Howard) and watching better players or other plays play, it just gave me more motivation to be ready. That’s how it is. When your number is called, you got to make the most of it.”

Alabama started 14-0 this season before losing to Clemson, 44-16, in the national championship. These two programs have met in the College Football Playoff four years in a row, with each side winning two games. 

Is Clemson becoming more of a rival than Auburn?

“I feel like losing to Clemson twice is tough,” Smith Jr. said. “I feel like Auburn is always going to be No. 1 just because of the rivalry that’s gone with it. But Clemson and Alabama is starting a rivalry now because we play them so many times now. It’s crazy how it’s all working out.”

Smith Jr. said he was “definitely” surprised that Alabama was blown out in the national championship.

“You go into every game trying to win the game,” he said. “That’s your biggest goal. I felt like we didn’t play our best game, obviously. We left a lot of points on the board. But Clemson played a great game, and props to them.”