INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner said Nick Saban's retirement "kind of hurt a lot of people's hearts," but it didn't catch him off guard completely and said "when it's your time to go, it's your time to go."
"A lot of people think that you can coach college football forever, but you really can't," Turner said at the NFL scouting combine Thursday.
Turner declared for the draft just after Alabama's loss to Michigan at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Saban announced his retirement Jan 10.
Saban coached at Alabama from 2007 to 2023, winning six of his seven national championships with the Crimson Tide. He also had head-coaching jobs at Michigan State, LSU and the NFL's Miami Dolphins before going to Alabama.
"From how he was my freshman to my junior year, I kind of seen a lot of changes and stuff like that," Turner said. "I wasn't surprised. But how it went about, I was kind of surprised. He probably would crack a lot more jokes and stuff like that. It started to be more player-led. It was always since he's been there, but you could tell the players really had a lot of say and he was a lot more open to a lot more ideas and what the players had to say and stuff. But it was all good though.
"He was still the same Coach Saban on the field, of course, but you could tell the slight changes."
Turner credited Saban for teaching him the value of self-discipline, helping him not only as an athlete but also off the field.
"I feel like he opened up a lot of opportunities, touched a lot of hearts and touched a lot of minds," said Turner, who also wanted to clear the air about some controversial hits on quarterbacks from his college career.
Hits on LSU's Jayden Daniels (2023), Texas' Quinn Ewers (2022) and Ole Miss' Jaxson Dart resulted in penalties. Ewers missed three games with a sprained clavicle after he was driven into the ground by Turner, and Dart's head was slammed into the grass by Turner after he was dragged down by his face mask.
"I am just playing football," Turner said. "That is just how I play. I don't intend to be dirty or nothing like that on my hits. I just play between the whistles. I just play 100%."