Dr. Kevin Elko with Nick Saban
When we talk about building championship-caliber football teams, we may start with offensive and defensive lines, move into skilled positions and throw in some schemes.
When inspirational speaker Dr. Kevin Elko dissects what it takes to raise a trophy he uses words like trust, commit to an identity, work ethic and leadership.
He used all those words Monday when he appeared on The Afternoon Sports Drive on WNSP 105.5 FM in Mobile when talking about Alabama's 11-2 campaign last season, which ended with consecutive losses.
He said Nick Saban's "process" is in recreate mode.
"We brought the leaders together," Elko said Monday. "They've been meeting with me every two weeks. We have a leadership program, an Alabama leadership program we've been doing. I've been meeting with them on recreating who and what we are, going back and getting a new vision and starting over.
"I told him on the phone this morning, I said 'Nick, two losses, most people celebrate (a two-loss season).' With us, that means we have to recreate. We're trying to go back and get a brand new vision, a brand new process and try to make this something that we own and that is uniquely ours."
Part of that is looking back at what went wrong and how it went wrong in order to move forward. For instance, Elko has a different perspective on Alabama's 34-28 loss to Auburn than most Tide fans.
"I tell (Saban) all the time, I thought Auburn was good for us," Elko explained. "There's energy down there. I talked about (Auburn coach) Gus (Malzahn) today. I said 'you know what, Nick? I think they're good for us. They've got energy. They're a good opponent. They bring our game up, and I think in some way that game ... it energized us. We needed a good challenge."
"When (former quarterback) AJ (McCarron) goes on (The) Finebaum (Show) and talked about the younger players are entitled, I counter with don't you think it was AJ's job to go down and sit down and connect with the younger guys and not just say you're entitled? But to sit down, connect with them and understand them."
He said leadership - the kind the team needed - was missing last season.
"I mean real leadership," Elko explained. "Standing up and confronting each other. I've been a part of a dozen championships. The coach wasn't the leader in any of them. The players had accountability and drove each other. We had that with (former running back Mark) Ingram. Nick said that this morning. We had that with (former receiver) Julio (Jones). We had it with those guys. We had it with (former linebacker) Donta (Hightower). We had it with Carson Tinker.
"If the coaches work real hard on leadership, we're going to lose. If the players are challenging each other, then something special is going to happen. That's what we have to get back to."
"We lost our connection," he said. "We thought all we have to do really is to show up and it's going to come to us. And another thing that got us last year is ... we started blaming. We started blaming things. This one's wrong. This coach is wrong. We're working too hard. Once you say we're working too hard, that's Alabama's identity. That's what makes us different. Now, you're blaming and criticizing our identity so when we say reset, we start to lose our identity."
If Elko's comments give you the impression that everything in Tuscaloosa is doom and gloom, don't.
"When we won our three national championships, we had concrete, strong leadership and we lost it last year," Elko said. "We are much better, but we are not there yet.
"Once you get there, it is a whole different thing to stay there. I think there were some things we learned. ... I was on the phone so much with Nick last year, I said you're working too hard, we're in trouble."