Every season has its memorable moments and game-changing performances, so we’re counting down the 25 most important figures within or around the Crimson Tide program (or foes) who will determine whether Alabama’s upcoming season is a success.
No. 16: Kevin Elko
Dr. Kevin Elko is the guy behind the guy.
Elko, one of the nation’s top sports psychologists and motivational speakers, and Nick Saban, one of the nation’s most prolific college football coaches, converse regularly. Saban once estimated that he talks with Elko once every other week.
Of course, these chats are private, A-and-B conversations. Eventually, though, Elko’s words are passed along in various ways. Alabama’s players hear them on the practice field or in the meeting rooms. Later, reporters will type them out as they transcribe Saban’s opening statements from his press conferences.
“He’ll take my information, and he’ll film it and repeat it and re-teach it, and re-teach it, and re-teach it,” Elko told AL.com in Oct. 2012. “Some guys say, ‘Aw, it’s just a talk.’ Not with him. He’ll take my talk and make it a culture.”
Every so often, Alabama’s players will hear them straight from the source.
“Dr. Elko is first of all, probably the best public speaker I’ve ever heard,” All-American offensive lineman Barrett Jones said in 2012. “He’s very talented, very engaging with his audience. I think he’s had a big impact. He always leaves us with one little phrase per year. It’s a lot more than that, but kind of one phrase that kind of sums up all that he’s saying.”
Elko makes regular appearances on The Paul Finebaum Show and consults with a number of other sports teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. He’s known Saban since the Alabama coach was coordinating the Cleveland Browns’ defense in the mid-90s and first spoke to one of his teams more than 10 years ago, when Saban was at LSU.
He’s one of the key cogs in Saban’s intellectual circle of trust, which also includes Trevor Moawad, the director of the IMG Performance Institute, and Michigan State professor Lonny Rosen.
Listen closely, and you’ll hear from Elko throughout Alabama’s 2014 season.