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August 19, 2012TUSCALOOSA | Pete Jenkins couldn't bring himself to watch.
It's not easy to find a bigger fan of both LSU and Nick Saban than Jenkins. In a 45-year career, over 11 coaching stops, he was at LSU longer than anywhere by far.
"I bleed purple and gold," he said.
But in the coaching sense, he's bled for Nick Saban as well. Among the dozens of coaches he crossed paths with over four-plus decades in the business, he came to respect Saban more than any of them. So when a Saban-coached Alabama team met Jenkins' Tigers twice last year in the two most anticipated games of the college football season, the retired defensive line coach couldn't stand to watch it on television.
So he went to the movies.
"The national championship game, we went to a theater, and we saw 'War Horse,' and nobody was in there," said Jenkins, who coached defensive lines for Saban's first three LSU teams. "My wife and I were alone in there. There wasn't another soul, because everyone on Earth was watching that game."
Checking the score was at the top of Jenkins' list as soon as the credits rolled, but to witness the game, he said, would have been "gut-wrenching."
These days, Jenkins is retired and living in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.
It's been 12 years since he first began coaching under Saban, but to Jenkins, it seems like yesterday. Not long after Jenkins agreed to join the LSU staff for the 2000 season, Saban's first impression stuck with him. Barely a month after Saban took over the Tigers program, Jenkins introduced Saban at an alumni event for a speaking engagement in New Orleans. He told the assembly that Saban was the most complete head coach he had ever been around.
He was also the most demanding, but, according to Jenkins, Saban demands more efficiency than time.
"I've worked for some coaches who had busywork for me where I spent time late at night basically guarding my desk," Jenkins said. "Even though the work day was really tough with Nick, at least none of it was a waste of time. ... I've worked for a lot of people who kept me later than coach Saban, people who started me earlier than coach Saban, but nobody filled my day with more relative importance than he did."
Saban, clearly enough, thought as highly of Jenkins. He has brought him to Tuscaloosa to speak with defensive line coaches Bo Davis, now at Texas, and Chris Rumph.
Although retired, Jenkins still makes a few rounds assisting NFL teams for their training camps, works with NFL Draft prospects here and there, and visits college programs as well.
"I hesitate to call it consulting, but I guess that's what it is," he said.
When you've coached at as many places as Jenkins has, people want your opinions. He's coached 17 All-Southeastern Conference defensive linemen, at five different SEC schools. More than 30 of his former college linemen have gone on to the NFL.
He's been around.
And he didn't need to watch the national championship game to know who the game's best coach was.
"Nobody does all the things a head coach has to do better than Nick Saban, and you're talking about a multiplicity of tasks," Jenkins said. "You just have to wear so many hats as a head coach now, and he wears them all so well, from recruiting to handling the staff and the media, to game-planning and everything else. His greatest asset is his ability to communicate."