When Nick Saban realized Giants’ Judge was head coaching material

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Joe Judge has worked under two of the greatest football coaches of all-time, and one of them says he had “head coach” written all over him.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said on the “Giants Huddle” podcast that when Judge was a special teams assistant for Saban’s Crimson Tide from 2009-11 he showed the leadership qualities and football acumen that would someday make him a head coach.

“When Joe was here, he was a young guy, very bright, enthusiastic, great teacher, really good relationships with the players, had lots of leadership qualities about him because of the example that he set and the energy and the enthusiasm he had on a daily basis,” Saban said. “And he was really smart. He had a good understanding of football. So no surprise to me that Joe has gotten to this point in his career, and we certainly wish him well. He did a fantastic job here for us.”

After leaving Alabama, Judge went on to coach under Bill Belichick, rising from special teams assistant to special teams coordinator before becoming the latest Saban and Belichick assistant to lead an NFL team.

And with a coaching tree that has spread it’s branches throughout the college and NFL ranks — including, in head coach Adam Gase, into the Jets locker room at MetLife — the Crimson Tide coach has seen the dangers of coaches modeling their style too closely to their mentor’s. But Saban says Judge, 38, is too smart for that.

“I don’t think it’s really fair that when you have former assistants on your staff they get compared to their mentors because we all have different situations,” Saban said. “We’ve had the chance to establish our program, establish our team, get the kind of players that we wanted. When you come into a new situation, you’ve got to, No. 1, be yourself, be who you are. Don’t try to be somebody else and do things the way you want to do them and get the kind of players that you want. It takes some time to build that. I don’t fully know the Giants situation — when we’re in college, we don’t get to see the NFL games all the time on Sunday because we work … but I know Joe will do a really good job of doing that. But I think that’s the most important thing. Don’t try to be like somebody else. Be who you are.”

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