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Humbled Lane Kiffin speaks at Alabama media day

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Lane Kiffin's promising coaching career hit some road blocks before he ended up at Alabama. (©GettyImages)
Lane Kiffin's promising coaching career hit some road blocks before he ended up at Alabama. (©GettyImages).

Alabama's first official media day of the preseason brought an unlikely face back to the public eye: Lane Kiffin, the former USC and Tennessee coach who accepted an offensive coordinator role with the Crimson Tide in the offseason.

The son of longtime NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was humble and spoke about making more mistakes than most.

"To be able to go through what I've gone through and still be fortunate before the age of 40 to be here," Kiffin said at media day, "you take some time to reflect on that."

It's easy for Kiffin to reflect - after all, it could all be different.

He could have come to Alabama as an assistant coach seven years before, when head coach Nick Saban first approached him. He could have avoided the drama, the losing seasons, the multiple fall from graces under intense media scrutiny.

He could be a different man today.

A hot start

Lane Kiffin went from golden boy to black sheep.

Despite his coaching pedigree, Kiffin did his time as a Southern California wide receivers coach from 2002 to 2004. But when Norm Chow left USC for the Tennessee Titans, the young upstart was upgraded to offensive coordinator alongside Steve Sarkisian.

That 2005 season brought some of the best moments in Trojan lore and much of it was because of the high-flying offense.

USC became the first team in NCAA history to have a 3,000 yard-passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and a 1,000-yard receiver. Those star players were Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Lendale White and Dwayne Jarrett, respectively.

That offense was so great that it had a second receiver, Steve Smith, come within only a few yards of also posting a 1,000 yard effort.

The 2005 squad finished with a 41-38 loss to the Texas Longhorns that became an instant classic.

Saban approached Kiffin that offseason with an offer, but Kiffin decided to stay.

And after a Rose Bowl win the next season, in which the offense hung 31 points up on Michigan, Kiffin's star was clearly rising.

A steep fall

The 31-year-old Kiffin became the youngest head coach in the NFL's modern era after Oakland owner Al Davis hired him in 2007.

But the drafting of JaMarcus Russell, an overweight quarterback from LSU, in the first round ultimately sunk his chances for success.

Kiffin finished with a 4-12 record that first year, which reportedly led to a suddenly premature request from Davis to turn his resignation. 

In September though, Davis did pull the plug and Kiffin was fired after accumulating a 5-15 record in his short time as head coach. Kiffin, then 33, agreed to a six-year contract with college football's Tennessee Volunteers.

However, he earned ridicule when he bolted the school after just one season as head coach, returning to Southern California to lead the Trojans.

After four seasons and a 28-15 record - a dismal performance by USC's high standards - Kiffin was fired by athletic director Pat Haden.

A chance for redemption

Now Kiffin returns to join Saban's squad, seven years after he could have initially been a part of a Crimson Tide team which ended up winning three national championships from 2009 to 2012. 

Luckily for him, he is still young. But one can only hope, for his sake, that this second-chance at his career goes more smoothly than his whirlwind early years did.

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