The juxtaposition, as is normally the case, was startling and jarring.
On the one hand, you had Clemson, dancing and celebrating the football program’s first national championship in over three decades. On the other, there was Alabama, stunned by its first loss after winning 26 straight and its first defeat in a title game since winning four in seven years under Nick Saban.
It may be cliché, but the postgame locker room was akin to a funeral, one with feelings no one inside it had ever felt pouring out.
“People are hurt,” linebacker Rashaan Evans said. “You work so hard to get to this point and you lose the game. It’s like a death in the family.”
“I never felt that feeling probably my whole life,” said wide receiver Gehrig Dieter. “To be that close to the ultimate goal and not get it, it hurts. It’s probably going to hurt a lot more the next couple of weeks when it really sinks in.”
Tim Williams, whose last game as a member of the Crimson Tide was the loss, implored his somber teammates to “remember this feeling,” which will no doubt be one of Saban’s rallying cries throughout the upcoming offseason and on into the 2017 season. Here’s more of Williams’ poignant and heartfelt locker-room message, from al.com:
I left everything out on the field, bro,” he told them early Tuesday morning.
He paused before repeating the line.
“I love y’all, bro,” he blurted.
The sentence hung in the dead silence.
“Remember this feeling,” the outside linebacker appealed.
The verbal stream of consciousness continued to flow.
“We are a championship program, bro. Real talk, bro.