And now Allen is a leader on the team, and not just because he has caught five touchdowns this season. "What I experienced under Coach Swinney," he said, "was a total transformation." Allen is not religious, and he doesn't take the coach's postgame prayers literally. He treats them as a communal message.
"What we have is the feeling of comfort where we are able to dance with each other," Allen said, adding that Swinney, on the dance floor, "reminds me of a squid." No matter. The dancing shows "the love we have for each other," and that has everything to do with why the team is 8--0, Allen said. "We're looking out for each other."
Swinney was saying exactly the same thing at the Friday night reunion. But he wasn't talking about his team. He was talking about the 1981 team. He said the reason those Tigers went undefeated was because they looked after one another. And, he noted, they have been looking after one another ever since. As Swinney spoke, he gave the winners from 30 years ago a careful look, slowed his delivery and said, "I understand the bond you have." Swinney had that bond at Alabama. He's been there. He gets it. And now he's trying to pass it on.