"Do we have a quarterback other than Blake Sims?" the 10-year-old asked last spring.
Many grown-up fans were wondering the same thing after Sims struggled in the spring game. The hindsight answer: The top-ranked Crimson Tide didn't need one.
With a blend of poise, consistency and big plays, Sims has led Alabama into a College Football Playoff matchup with No. 4 Ohio State on Jan. 1 and set some records along the way. Sims' critics, presumably including the unimpressed youngster, have mostly been quieted.
"He probably jumped on the bandwagon like all the rest of you did," Saban said.
The bandwagon for Sims is crowded these days. The former running back and scout-team quarterback wasn't given much of a shot by many fans and reporters to beat out Florida State transfer Jake Coker as AJ McCarron's replacement. Particularly after Sims threw two interceptions in the spring game, when Coker wasn't around and fans were scrutinizing his every move on the field.
Sims has not only guided the Crimson Tide to a 12-1 record and Southeastern Conference title but his numbers are more than comparable to those McCarron put up last season when he was the Heisman Trophy runner-up. He has been invited to play in the Senior Bowl.
Like McCarron, Sims' teammates chose him as a team captain after the SEC championship game.
"I don't think anybody doubted him on this team," Tide center Ryan Kelly said. "We knew wherever he was going to go he was going to give it his all. That's the result that came out this year. He gave it his all and look what happened."Kelly says the doubters before the season were "everybody from the outside." The 6-foot Sims could be dismissed as too short, too inexperienced and certainly too inconsistent in the spring game, which was the first time many fans had seen him play quarterback outside of mop-up duty.
Sims has passed for a school-record 3,250 yards with 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions -- all on par with McCarron's numbers in 13 games (3,064 yards, 28 touchdowns, seven interceptions). He also had one of his better games against Missouri to claim the SEC title.
Pretty good for a player who had attempted 29 passes in two seasons as McCarron's backup after playing running back in 2011. Saban said most players would have transferred under those circumstances.
"Blake is an inspirational guy, just his personality, the way he plays, the way he competes," Saban said. "I think a lot of players have a lot of respect for him for the perseverance that he showed here. We're talking about a guy that not very many people thought he could play quarterback at Alabama."
Sims has started every game but opened the season splitting time with Coker. He officially declared the quarterback competition over with a 445-yard passing performance against Florida, the second-most in Alabama history.
Sims typically deflects most praise toward his teammates in interviews, and said he didn't expect to be named a captain.
At a school where quarterbacks are defined by national titles, Sims, the former scout-teamer is two wins away from making his final season one Tide fans won't forget. He said he hasn't pondered his legacy -- yet.
"Whatever my last game goes zero on the board in the fourth quarter, I'll stop and think about what I have done through the year," he said. "But right now I'm just focused on what I've got to do to make this team better and how can I make sure this team is ready for Ohio State."