Terry Constable had no interest in Nick Saban when he started pursuing her back in West Virginia.
They were both in the seventh grade at the time and went to rival schools. They met at a 4-H science camp. In the years to come, he consistently pursued his crush, but she wasn’t interested. She was a city girl and he went to a smaller school in the country. Mostly, though, she spent six years — all through their junior high and high school years — dating a popular boy named Mick Shaffer.
It wasn’t until they were in college — Saban at Kent State in Ohio and Constable elsewhere — that they started dating long distance. Before long, they married and have now been together for close to 50 years.
Saban tells a story about a homecoming celebration thrown for him nearly 10 years ago to mark his growing success as a college football coach, most recently at the University of Alabama. He said it was a great trip home and he discovered that Terry’s old boyfriend, Mick Shaffer, had ended up as the owner of a service station.
Saban said he couldn’t resist the chance to brag a little about how well she had done by marrying him instead, so he drove by Shaffer’s station.
“We drive by his service station,“ Saban recalled to a group of coaches, “and I said, ‘if you would’ve married him, that’s where you’d be now.’ She said, ‘bull****, if I would’ve married him, he’d be the head coach at Alabama now.’”
Terry Saban has been instrumental in her husband’s success. When he first took an SEC job as head coach at LSU, she is reputed to have negotiated much of the contract. And when he later left the Miami Dolphins to come to Tuscaloosa in 2007 — where he was promised complete control over the football program — she was the key to making the decision.
Today, “Miss Terry” is known and widely loved around here. She’s seen as the only one who can correct her husband when he’s made a mistake in public. And everybody knows that she’s been more than a “football wife.” She’s been Nick Saban’s business and personal partner — and she’s had a huge role to play in his success.
When I saw the video of Saban’s story today, it was another reminder that our choice of partner plays a huge part in determining what sort of people we end up being and in determining how successful we are.
No matter how much talent a person has, he often goes nowhere without the right help and guidance from the partner who’s a perfect fit. If you partner with a “dud,” you won’t be what you were capable of being. But the right two people together can be far more as a team than either of them could have been alone or with the wrong partners.
The story of the Sabans resonates with me in particular because I’ve always known how important it is to me to have the right partner — and it makes me even more eager to find such a partnership for myself.
I don’t want to be a football coach, but there are important things I’d still like to do. I’m eager to find the right partner — a woman who shares my values, goals and vision — to work with me to make a difference in our world.
I hope I’ll be as persistent as Nick Saban was in pursuing the right one — and I hope the eventual right partner can be just as good as Terry Saban is of putting her husband in his place when his ego gets too big.