By Jaime Aron

As Alabama coach Nick Saban, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and their top players sat on raised lecterns and answered questions at Media Day on Saturday, the real fun of the event played out around them on the floor of the SAP Center.

On one end, guys played Madden on PlayStation against each other and against former NFL players – including one who appeared on the game’s cover. To their left stood the shiny gold trophy they’re playing for Monday night.

On the other end of the floor, players went through video stations set up by Facebook and Twitter.

And in the vast space in between, the scene included hot-dog-eating champion Joey Chestnut talking food, a teenager in a wheelchair getting overwhelmed with kindness and a magician performing one mind-blowing trick after another.

Here are those tales and more.


Four televisions were hooked up with PlayStations. While Spider-Man and FIFA19 drew some players, the crowds gathered around the back-to-back setups featuring Madden.

Alabama’s Trevon Diggs beat a teammate while playing as the Minnesota Vikings, his brother Stefon’s team. Then Diggs got a new opponent: Marcus Spears, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys and now of the SEC Network.

Diggs switched to the Chiefs while Spears took the Texans, an interesting choice because it meant his quarterback was DeShaun Watson, who led Clemson over Alabama in the 2017 CFP title game.

Spears went three-and-out on the opening series. On Diggs’ second play, he threw a long touchdown pass, sending Spears back to the TV set.

During Clemson’s session, players were greeted by a 41-year-old man bearing a copy of Madden 07. Former Alabama star Shaun Alexander is partial to that year’s game since he’s on the cover.


In the world of competitive eating, Joey Chestnut’s dominance is Alabama-like.

Ranked first in the world by Major League Eating, he’s also a college football fan – and a San Jose resident, making his presence this weekend a good fit.

Players from both teams were excited to meet Chestnut and to hold his wrestling-style championship belt from the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. As you might expect, beefy linemen were especially eager to meet him.

“You’re like an idol,” said Clemson’s Matt Bockhorst, an offensive lineman listed at 310 pounds. “As a fat guy, this is about as good as it gets.”

Chestnut had questions for the guys, but wound up mostly answering theirs. They all wanted to know how many hot dogs, pretzels, wings and more he’s eaten in one sitting, and they were especially curious about how he got started in this unusual profession.

“My little brother signed me up. I didn’t want to do it,” Chestnut said. “I got an engineering degree. Now all I do is go around and eat.”


Most images of the Alabama coach show him displaying various levels of intensity. The SEC Network used that as the basis of a game played with tables full of players.

Under the guidance of SEC Network reporter Taylor Davis, one player held up a picture of Saban and others sorted through cards with captions. Each player turned in a caption and the guy holding the picture selected his favorite.

For instance: One image showed Saban at a CFP news conference. He held a microphone with the game’s logo in one hand while two fingers from his left hand were pressed against his face.

Teammates chose captions that included “When you’re behind in The Process,” and “When someone tells you Alabama is ruining college football.” The winner?

“When someone asks you to pronounce Tagovailoa.”


Camden Lang is a 15-year-old from St. Mary’s, Georgia, who played quarterback, receiver and safety last year for his middle-school team. His dad, Mark, was the coach.

In July, a car hit Camden from behind, breaking both legs and his back. Now paralyzed, he was hospitalized until Dec. 18.

On Thursday, officials from Dream on 3 – an organization that makes sports-related wishes come true for sick or disabled children – told him he was going to the championship game. Another surprise came Saturday when he got to meet players from both teams.