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(Video) Watch Saban’s passionate defense of second chances

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Alabama defensive end D.J. Pettway walked across the stage at Coleman Coliseum on Dec. 13 and received his diploma. He shook outgoing Alabama president Judy Bonner’s hand and completed the process of being a student.

But this moment would not have been possible if Alabama head coach Nick Saban hadn’t given Pettway a second chance.

The JUCO transfer was on the team in 2012 when he and three other players were kicked off the team for robbing a fellow student. Pettway went to East Mississippi Community College for a year and earned back a spot with the Crimson Tide, rejoining the team in last year’s recruiting class. He has 21 total tackles this season and has recorded 1.5 sacks while contributing to Alabama’s defensive front.

“He’s a hard worker, he’s certainly been productive for us in the games,” Saban said of Pettway. “He’s provided a lot of depth for us, he’s been a starter at times…He comes in and plays a real critical role for us.

“He’s contributed and done everything we’ve asked him to do, every way we’ve asked him to do it and has never been anything but positive about doing it.”

Saban then proceeded to give his thoughts on giving players chances.

“Guy makes a mistake, where do you want them to be?” Saban asked. “Want them to be in the street, or do you want them to be here graduating?”

Saban then brought up former Michigan State and NFL wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, a player he coached while in East Lansing. Saban said everyone around the program was “killing the guy” because he got into trouble. Saban suspended Muhammad, rather than kicking him off the team, and he eventually went on to graduate from Michigan State and play 15 seasons in the NFL. He is now the managing partner at Axum Capital Partners, has seven kids, and his oldest daughter goes to Princeton.

Pettway is another example of a player returning to Saban’s program and thriving. Odds are he won’t be the last.

Getting louder with every word, Saban finished his speech by asking more rhetorical questions.

“So who was right?” Saban asked. “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. And then some people won’t stand up for them.

“So my question to you is, where do you want them to be? You want to condemn them to a life sentence, or do you want a guy to have his children going to Princeton?”

Watch Saban’s full response here:

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