TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Andre Smith's boyhood home had a room painted in Florida State garnet and gold. Darren Mustin was fond of doing the Tomahawk Chop around his own house.
Alabama players who grew up rooting for the Seminoles - and there are plenty of them - get to face their boyhood team on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.
The 22nd-ranked Crimson Tide's coach also has ties going back even further with Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, making this a matchup with a little more personal sentiment than usual.
Nick Saban was a rookie graduate assistant at Kent State trying to help his family cope with the death of his father when Bowden, then coaching at West Virginia, called out of the blue with a generous offer.
``He said, 'Nick, I don't really have a position. But if you need to be home and be around your mother, I'll create a position for you here so that you can be closer to home,''' said Saban, a West Virginia native who was home with his mother at the time of the call.
``That's the kind of guy we're talking about here. This is the epitome of a man who's done it for a long, long time and done it with a lot of dignity, a lot of character, a lot of class.''
Now, he gets to meet Bowden, an Alabama native, for the first time as a head coach. Alabama (3-1) and Florida State (2-1) haven't met since 1974.
At least two of the Tide's offensive stars strongly considered signing with Florida State out of high school. Running back Terry Grant said the Seminoles were among his final three choices, along with Southern Miss.
``I was on the edge of telling them I was going to be there,'' said Grant, a Mississippi native. ``It was a matter of overnight I just had a bad feeling and changed my mind.''
Smith's mother helped him change his mind about immediately accepting Florida State's scholarship offer.
``As soon as they offered me I told my mom, and that was it,'' the left tackle said. ``My mom said, 'No. You're going to take all your visits.'''
So he did, and liked Alabama and then-coach Mike Shula enough to head to school 45 minutes from home instead of going to Tallahassee.
``I'm really looking forward to a chance to play against a team I grew up loving,'' Smith said.
Center Antoine Caldwell was a big fan of former Florida State receiver Peter Warrick.
``I was small back in my day. I was a running back, so I used to love Florida State,'' he said. ``I was Alabama-Florida State growing up. Maybe it was the little Tomahawk Chop thing they used to do.''
They still do. Only this time Alabama will be a target. Mustin, who missed the Georgia game with a shoulder injury and is questionable against Florida State, might not leave Jacksonville liking the gesture as much as he did when he was young and cheering for the Seminoles.
Saban still runs into Bowden sometimes on the recruiting trail and has known sons Terry and Tommy Bowden since they were graduate assistants at West Virginia.
Even when they're competing for recruits like receiver Michael Clayton, Saban said Bowden never changed his laid-back demeanor.
``It doesn't make any difference if you're recruiting Michael Clayton and it's down to Florida State and LSU,'' Saban said. ``He's never any different. There's never any paranoia about anything. There's never worry about somebody's going to do something wrong. He kind of worries about what he does. It's really refreshing.''
However, Saban did take some Alabama fans to task for throwing objects out of the stands onto Georgia players celebrating Saturday night's overtime victory. He also alluded to a phone call someone affiliated with the team - he didn't say who - received after the game.
``I don't think it's classy to throw something on somebody else,'' Saban said. ``I don't think it's classy to call somebody's house at night and complain about something. I don't think any of that's classy.''

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