The Alabama locker room had finally reached a peaceful stillness as Tua Tagovailoa sat alone in a barren press room. The reality of leading the most decorated team in college football history to a come-from-behind National Championship win—at 19 years old, no less—had yet to sink in. After all, it was only a year ago that this was all a pipedream, wherein opposing freshman Jake Fromm was next in line to take the reins for Alabama. But Fromm flipped to Georgia, and 'Bama came calling. Now here he was, thousands of miles from Saint Louis School in Honolulu, triumphant in one half of miraculous collegiate play.
“Hey Tua, come on. We’re gettin’ outta here.”
Tua looked up to see an energetic Nick Saban.
“Where we going, Coach?”
Saban grinned, his cheeks still glistening from tears of joy.
“Magic City. Whole team’s goin’,” he replied. But Tua was unfamiliar.
“What’s Magic City?”
At this point, the renowned ball coach shoved his hands in his pockets and strolled gently over to Tagovailoa.
“Tua,” he assured, “Imagine the biggest cafeteria you’ve ever seen, except the lunch ladies… the lunch ladies are beautiful. Heavenly, even. And they just keep cookin’ and servin’, cookin’ and servin’... until your belly’s full and your pockets are empty. That’s Magic City. That’s where we’re goin’ tonight.”
“Will there be prayer?” Tua inquired.
“Prayer? Heck yeah they’ll be prayer,” Saban leaned into his new quarterback, “Hell, I’ve seen multiple gentlemen catch the holy ghost on any given night there.”
Yet Tua wasn’t sold. “I don’t know, Coach. I’m just a little—”
“Future’s gonna be there.”
“Let’s roll,” Tua replied. And they left.
The air was thick as the newly minted entourage poured out into the parking lot of Magic City. Tua’s forehead was bumping, as he was unsure if this foggy, unfamiliar feeling was a result of the food or the women or Coach Saban’s endless champagne room noogies.
“Where we goin’ next?” Saban shouted.
“Shannon Sharpe’s house.” Future called back. “He’s throwing a party to celebrate his Undisputed prediction that y’all would win.”
“Is Skip going to be there?” cried Courteney Cox. Tua had forgotten about Cox’s passionate fandom for Crimson Tide football. But there she was, clad in a Jalen Hurts jersey and checkered Bear Bryant fedora.
“Fucker better not be,” warned Saban. “I got a bone… I got—I’m…” Saban bent over to rest his hands on his knees, spitting onto the cold parking lot pavement. He was good and tossed, but he had never been happier in his life.
“Nah, Skip won’t be there,” assured Future. And so the four friends piled into an arriving Uber and sent the driver to Sharpe’s.
Sharpe’s house was certainly grand. He was, after all, a Hall of Fame tight end and successful (and notorious) talking head for FS1’s Undisputed morning show. But when they arrived at the front door, something was off. There seemed to be no one at the party.
In lieu of ringing the doorbell, Future cracked the door just wide enough for the crew to peek inside. Sure enough, not a soul was there. It was only Sharpe, standing alone in his kitchen, recording an Instagram video of himself on his phone:
Saban took a long swig of the Coors-heavy he’d brought with him for the ride. “Dude, let’s get the fuck out of here.” The foursome retreated to their car and left.
“And I will take the… cheese and eggs with a side of smothered hash browns, please.”
Tua folded up his menu and handed it to the waiter, who then motioned to a slouching, passed out Saban.
“I’ll assume your friend here is all set.” And they all shared a laugh at the coach’s expense.
“Oh yeah. Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah,” Future bopped in his seat, pleased with Tua’s order. Tua had never been to a Waffle House before, and he surely didn’t expect his first visit to come at 3 AM after a National Championship win (with Future and Courteney Cox, no less). Cox took the moment of reflection to get to know her new friend.
“So, Mr. MVP, what are you going to do now that you’re the starting quarterback at Alabama?”
Tua took a deep breath and paused. The thought had never hit him until now.
“I guess I’ll probably just keep being me. I love to kick back, play my ukulele…”
“You play ukulele?” Future chimed.
“Yeah, all the time,” said Tua.
“And you have yellow hair,” he continued.
“Yeah, I mean, what?”
Tua was lost.
“I’m just saying, you have yellow hair,” he persisted.
Suddenly a voice cried out from a nearby table.
“And if it weren’t for that batshit-lucky throw, he’d still just be another yellow-haired, tiny-gutaired dickback hollerin’ ‘Roll Tide, Roll.’”
It was ex-Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford, still bitter over a gut-wrenching loss. The insult was stirring, and Future was not amused.
“I know you’re not talking to my man like that,” he warned the drunken alumnus.
“Easy, Nayvadius,” Cox interrupted. “I’ve got this.”
Future looked back at Cox, puzzled as to why she would use his formal birth name now, in a Waffle House of all places.
Cox stood to approach Stafford, who began plucking an imaginary banjo to the tune of his own crude version of the Friends theme song. But just as the actress decided to make her move, a shadowy figure appeared in the background—his khakis soaked in urine; his crimson polo covered in vomit.
It was Saban. His face had turned fiery, as if Andy Pappanastos just missed another field goal in the Waffle House parking lot. As Stafford sang louder, Saban crept closer, and closer, until he began to remove the white shoelaces from his sneakers. Tua was horrified, but there was no stopping the ol’ ball coach. And right as Stafford got to his very favorite part of the song—the fun part where they giddily clap three times between verses—Saban wrapped his laces around Stafford’s neck and began to strangle him.
“Nick, no!” Tua screamed.
“Hendrix!” Future shouted as he dropped his codeine onto the floor.
But it was too late. Nick Saban had murdered Matt Stafford in a Waffle House. And Tua had been a witness to the crime. He began to run to the possessed coach’s aid but slipped—falling backwards into the puddle of Future’s spilt codeine. And suddenly…
He was back. The only man left in the Alabama locker room, confetti still fresh on the ground.
“Hey Tua, c’mon. Time to go back to the hotel.”
It was Saban, perfectly fine and stable. The happiest he had ever been. Tua rose to his feet and shook his head. It was all a dream just as crazy as the game that had preceded it. And he was relieved. Though as Tua and Coach Saban exited the Atlanta arena, a familiar sight appeared atop the coach’s open duffle bag. It was a pair bloody shoelaces. Saban noticed the young student’s observation and simply patted him on his yellow hair.
“Come on. I want to introduce you to my friend, Blondie.”
The Detroit Lions went 0-16 the next year.