Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban calls former Alabama and current Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain "one of my most favorite people in the world," per AL.com.
"Even during the tougher times, Nick Saban never shied away from praising Rolando McClain.
"With McClain back on an NFL roster and poised to play a significant role for the Dallas Cowboys, Saban was understandably proud when he was asked about the former Alabama Butkus Award winner.
"'Rolando McClain is one of my favorite people in the whole world,' Saban said after Wednesday's practice. 'He actually came here the first year we were here and had never won a game and didn't have a very good team, and he certainly became the alpha dog leader of some really good teams that probably had a lot to do with the whole turning around of the program and getting a lot of the players to buy in and do a lot of the things the way we needed to do them so we could be successful as a team.
"'There are a lot of players that contributed to that, but Rolando McClain was one of the first and did it as well as anybody.'
"McClain, a Decatur native who signed with Alabama in 2007, started at middle linebacker in Dallas' final preseason game. He's listed as the second option behind Justin Durant on the Cowboys' official depth chart.
"McClain was limited a bit in practice earlier this week and appeared to be nursing a knee injury. He denied anything was wrong and said he was excited to play in his first official game in two years.
"Either somebody's going to hit you or you're going to hit somebody, so you better be ready,' McClain told the Dallas Morning News. 'I still love the game like I'm an 8-, 9-year-old kid. It's just about getting back into it, building chemistry with some of these guys, some trust and just playing and having fun really.'
"The eighth pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, McClain spent three rocky seasons with the Oakland Raiders. After his release, he signed with the Baltimore Ravens but retired just a couple weeks later following his third arrest since Dec. 2011.
"McClain, who moved to Tuscaloosa following his retirement, attended Alabama's Pro Day and briefly returned to the Ravens before he retired again in late April. McClain was acquired by the Cowboys in a July trade. He'll make a guaranteed $700,000 and could collect more than $400,000 in incentives.
"Saban gave Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett his first NFL coaching gig in 2005 when he was with the Miami Dolphins.
"'I'm excited about him having the opportunity to go back to play pro football, if that's what he wanted to do and that's what he chooses to do,' Saban said. 'I wish him the very, very best in his career. Hopefully, he'd do well in Dallas for Jason Garrett and the Cowboys. We'll be excited to watch him play.'"
Saban also told The Tuscaloosa News' Kelly Ward on Sept.1 the Crimson Tide's defense needs to improve in spite of their 33-23 Week 1 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers:
"The University of Alabama's defense wasn't perfect against West Virginia last Saturday.
"'I think that we have a lot to improve on defensively all the way around, so I'm not disappointed,' Alabama coach Nick Saban Monday in his weekly press conference. 'It is what it is. This is where we are. This is the starting point.'
"Sophomore defensive end Jonathan Allen and senior Jack linebacker Xzavier Dickson notched three total sacks. Allen had an 11-yard sack in the fourth quarter. Dickson had the first sack of the game in the first quarter for a loss of 5 yards.
"'There's more factors than how many sacks you got or how much pressure on the quarterback,' Saban said. 'I don't think we did a very good job of executing pressure in the game.'
"West Virginia netted 28 yards rushing. Alabama's defensive line had six tackles for 30 yards lost...
"...But besides shutting down West Virginia's running game, Saban wasn't pleased with the overall performance of the linebackers.
"'We had too many miscommunications, too many missed coverages, too many missed assignments. I think that in a lot of cases, the ball came out so fast, whether it was a screen or a bubble pass or a smoke or a quick pass, and they throw so many screens, the defensive linemen have have to do a really good job of retracing on the screen,' Saban said."