TUSCALOOSA — On April 27, 2011, tragedy struck the Tuscaloosa community as an EF4 tornado ripped through the city.
The tornado traveled more than 80 miles through west Alabama, claiming the lives of 53 people and injuring thousands as wind speeds reached 190 mph.
"It really galvanized the community in a lot of ways," Alabama football Nick Saban said Tuesday during a news conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the tornado. "A lot of people contributed to what we had to do to rebuild our community."
Saban was in his fourth year at Alabama and had concluded spring practice nine days prior.
His children, Nicholas and Kristen, were both in school at the time.
“It was a pretty anxious time to be honest with you,” said Saban. "That anxiety didn't really let up until the next day when we sort of could assess the damage."
Out of the tornado came Nick’s Kids’ effort to rebuild houses, one for each of Alabama’s 13 national championships at the time.
Saban remembers donations from Thompson Tractor that helped put D.J. Fluker on the seat of a bulldozer and how the tragedy built a desire in the team to give something special to the community.
From the start of the 2011 season, there was a certain connection between the players and the city that felt deeper than the relationship between a team and its fans.
“I think the community supported the team in a different kind of spirit than we've ever had,” said Saban.
Alabama won its 14th national championship, defeating LSU 21-0 in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.
It was Saban’s second title with the Crimson Tide and third overall. Saban has won three more championships at Alabama, including 2015, 2017 and 2020.
As the celebration started in Tuscaloosa, Saban and his wife prepared to build another house with Habitat for Humanity, a tradition that lives on with each national championship.
“It's a really important lesson of life for these guys to learn how to give,” said Saban. "I think compassion is a quality that sometimes gets a little undervalued."
It has become a way to not only remember those who lost their lives that day, but to celebrate the connection it created in those who survived.
Members of each national championship team have joined the Saban family and volunteers in the community to build a house, giving back to the community.