Palm Beach Central shocked, excited by Nick Saban’s helicopter visit

2:42 p.m Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 Sports
Palm Beach Central football players weren’t told in advance that Alabama coach Nick Saban would be visiting the school Tuesday. They gathered at the football stadium and were surprised to see Saban land at midfield in a helicopter. (Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post)

Like his Palm Beach Central football teammates, junior long-snapper Connor Woronstoff was asked by coach Tino Ierulli to wear his team jacket to school Tuesday morning — with no further explanation.

When Woronstoff and his teammates were pulled out of class at 10:45 a.m. and told to gather at the football stadium, they weren’t given a reason.

It was only when a helicopter descended from the sky and landed at midfield did Woronstoff realize somebody important was coming to visit.

That somebody turned out to be Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, who won his sixth national championship just eight days ago when his Crimson Tide earned a 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia.

Saban, wearing a crimson sport coat and tie, shook hands with Ierulli and Palm Beach Central principal Darren Edgecomb before heading inside the school to meet with coaches.

According to the school, Saban was inquiring specifically about junior defensive back Akeem Dent, who is an FSU commit; junior lineman Renato Brown, who is a Miami commit; and sophomore wide receiver Bryan Robinson, who has offers from Florida, Kentucky and Louisville, among others.

Saban’s presence left the Broncos football players in shock, then awe.

“I didn’t realize what was going to happen,” Woronstoff said. “When I saw the helicopter come down, I was surprised to see Nick Saban come out. It was a really cool experience.”

After watching Saban emerge from the helicopter, junior defensive end Tedrick Patterson immediately reached for his phone.

“I called my parents,” he said. “I called everybody, letting them know Nick Saban was here. I was not expecting this. I had no idea.”

Ierulli, whose Broncos finished 8-3 last season and won the District 9-8A championship, told school administrators and his staff in advance about Saban’s visit — he found out Friday — but kept it quiet from everybody else.

He said he was just as eager to meet Saban as his players were.

“I can only imagine how excited they were,” said Ierulli, who will begin his fifth season at Palm Beach Central this fall. “I was excited, and I’m a grown man and a coach. It was exciting for us.”

Saban’s visit to Palm Beach Central was good for the program, Broncos players said.

It puts the Wellington school on the map, they said, and also gives them incentive to train and study harder.

“It was moving,” senior wide receiver Alex Perrone said. “It kind of gives me something to look at and keep pushing for, even though the season’s over. He’s a big face of the college program.”