In February of 2013, four Alabama football players, including D.J. Pettway, were arrested in connection with a pair of robberies and, following an initial suspension, dismissed from the football program. Only Pettway, in December of last year, was ultimately permitted to return to the Tide.
The second chance caused enough of a controversy — Pettway had initially been charged with a pair of felonies that involved beating a UA student— the the university took the somewhat unusual step of releasing a statement from the school’s athletic director addressing the reinstatement.
Fast-forward almost exactly a year, and Alabama is one win away from an appearance in the national championship game, and Pettway has played a role in the Tide’s success as a rush defensive end. Not only that, but Pettway has earned his degree in just three and a half years. He’s obviously done well with his second chance, regardless of whether some people think he deserved it at the time based on the serious nature of the crime.
It’s those people, though, for whom Nick Saban had some very choice words as he stepped up to the pulpit following Saturday’s practice and delivered a passionate sermon on second chances. From al.com‘s account of Saban’s speech:
“Where do you want them to be? Guy makes a mistake. Where do you want them to be? You want him to be [on] the street or do you want them to be here graduating?”
He made reference to Muhsin Muhammad, who got in trouble while playing for Saban at Michigan State but turned into a success story after his second chance.
“Everybody in the school, every newspaper guy, everybody was killing [Muhammad] because he got in trouble and they said there’s no way he should be on our team,” Saban said. “I didn’t kick him off the team. I suspended him. I made him do some stuff.”
The receiver enjoyed a 15-year career in the NFL. He created a charity foundation called “The M2 Foundation for Kids.” Saban noted that he has seven children, and his oldest daughter is at Princeton.
“So who was right? I feel strong about this now, really strong, about all the criticism out there of every guy that’s 19 years old that makes a mistake and you all kill them,” Saban said.
“Some people won’t stand up for him. My question to you is, ‘Where do you want him to be?’ You want to condemn him to a life sentence? Or do you want the guy to have his children going to Princeton?”
Regardless of where you stand on football players and second chances, that’s some powerful stuff right there from Coach Saban.