Lou Sabin – NFL/AFL Champion Player/Coach
Louis Henry Saban (October 13, 1921 – March 29, 2009) was an American football player and coach. He played for Indiana University in college and as a professional for the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference between 1946 and 1949. Saban then began a long coaching career.
After numerous jobs at the college level, Saban landed as head coach in 1957 at Western Illinois University in Macomb, where he quickly built up a successful team. The Western Illinois Leathernecks finished with a record of 6–1–1 in 1958, followed by an undefeated 9–0 season in 1959, when Saban also served as an assistant under Otto Graham in the College All-Star Game. Having built up a 20–5–1 record over three seasons as coach, Saban drew interest from the professional ranks, and the Boston Patriots of the newly formed American Football League (AFL) hired him as head coach before the circuit’s inaugural season in 1960.
He joined the Buffalo Bills two years later, and led the team, along with assistant coach “Red” Miller, Macomb native and former assistant to Saban at WIU, to consecutive AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. After serving briefly as head coach at the University of Maryland, he was hired as head coach of the Denver Broncos in 1967, where he remained for five years. Miller followed Saban to the Broncos and became their head coach in 1977. Saban returned to the Bills—by then in the National Football League following the AFL–NFL merger—from 1972 to 1976, reaching the playoffs once but failing to bring Buffalo another championship.