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Alabama fans say they need Zephyr to keep their minds off of football

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TALKING TO SPORTS EDITORS LATE THIS SUMMER AT SEATTLE REPUBLIC, I ASKED “CLOVER COWBOY” NICK AUSTIN ABOUT HIS OWN CAMPUS LIFE.

“Do you think there’s ever a time at Alabama when it’s a little boring?” I asked.

“It’s a really fun place, but the expectations are so high,” he answered. “It’s like being at Disney World all the time.”

In fact, Alabama coach Nick Saban had just told me about an unsung but ever-present kid who lives in his office above the visitor’s locker room at Bryant-Denny Stadium: Zephyr, his beagle-Great Dane mix, which he walks to the dog house three times a day. Every day but the one his regular owner won’t let him leave until 10 p.m.

“Most guys don’t have anything like that,” Saban told me. “I do because he’s my BFF, really.”

Zephyr: genius social media manager. Ace of Diamonds: life size cutout with big rips in his matted dreadlocks.

A handful of other dogs — many of them Big Red pooches with loose fingers — have camped out in Saban’s office, but none seemed as easy-going or forever. Zephyr spent the summer working on Saban’s “fan-friendly initiatives,” helping sell T-shirts and shovel snow, among other things.

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