It was this very weekend in October 10 years ago that I experienced my first big win as an official Auburn man. At least that’s how I like to tell the story. Truth is, I’m not exactly sure when I got my acceptance letter from Auburn, but it sounds good to say it was just before the big win against Florida in 2001.
I was a senior in high school and that weekend was the school’s first ever fall break, a four-day weekend. Normally my friend Alan would have invited me and perhaps another friend to join his family for the big game. Alan’s parents are season ticket holders and I forever owe them a debt of gratitude for taking me to my first Auburn game around age 11. They were a huge part of what made me choose Auburn from an early age. This time, however, since we had four days off from school, Alan and his parent’s offered to take me and our friend Stephen to Destin for the long weekend.
This story is about three second and third generation Auburn Men* before they stepped on campus and about a trip and a football game that all three of us will never forget. More importantly, this is about what it means to be an Auburn fan.
Florida was ranked No. 1 in the county. They were loaded with talent as they almost always were under Steve Spurrier. They were the highly touted favorite in almost every game they played that year. This one was no exception. I remember Auburn being given no shot at winning. There was a bit of a quarterback controversy brewing on The Plains. Weeks earlier, we’d gotten blown out by Syracuse. Jason Campbell, not Daniel Cobb, was beginning to look like the obvious better choice at quarterback. At least that’s how I remember it. Maybe the controversy didn’t get going until the next year, but that’s neither here nor there. Cobb would single-highhandedly prove his detractors wrong and ensure his starting position for another season after his performance against Florida.
The details of this game can be found all over the internet so I won’t add to them here. To be honest, they’re a little hazy for me outside of a vague recollection that Cobb played the game of his life, and Damon Duvall was the man. What I do remember is having a feeling of excitement the entire game, watching it with two Auburn alums and two of my fellow future students in a condo in Destin. I remember thinking how great it was to be watching Auburn go toe to toe with the No. 1 team in the country while I was in the state that team represented. I remember being heckled by residents of the condos for being loud and proud Auburn fans. At one point I remember Alan’s mom having enough and going out to the balcony to yell “War DAMN Eagle!” after someone yelled for us to shut up. That was a great moment.
That night, Auburn was 4-1, unranked, previously unimpressive, and a big underdog. That night Auburn was unbeatable. It was the first time since being accepted to Auburn that my future school had pulled off the impossible. It was perfect.
The second the winning field goal went through the uprights, my two friends and I, as well as Alan’s parents, went absolutely insane. Alan, Stephen, and I went running outside and through the condo complex to the beach. I had my Auburn car flag in my hand waving it and screaming “War Eagle!” all the way. The second our feet hit the sand the heavens opened up with the worst downpour I have ever been outside to experience. The winds had to be 40+ mph. It literally felt like a hurricane had suddenly come ashore, but being 17 all three of us ran wildly down the beach screaming “WAR DAMN EAGLE!!!!!” and making a lot of noise. I’m not saying I made a promise at half time to streak down the beach if we won the game. I’m also not saying I didn’t and that it didn’t happen. Let’s just say it was a crazy celebration. Once we made it back inside we saw that we weren’t the only ones that went crazy. The students had rushed the field and actually carried a goal post out of the stadium. I think we all knew we wanted to go to Auburn. I don’t think any of us had even applied elsewhere. But, right then and there, I think we knew Auburn was where we belonged.
That was the last time we played Florida at home as a regular matchup. It would befive years before we met the Gators again in Jordan-Hare. That one turned out to be pretty fun, too. Saturday’s game marks 10 years since the 2001 game. Auburn has lost to Florida one time in the period. Alan became head of the Aubie committee (on which I served as well); he also went on to be a Plainsman for two years. Stephen graduated from Auburn and is now practicing law. I, too, graduated from Auburn and couldn’t even bring myself to search for jobs outside the Auburn-Opelika area. Alan and I will probably tailgate together tomorrow. We’ll probably tell this story more than once—the day we all became part of the fabric that binds all Auburn men and women together.
I’m not really sure what relevance this has to this week’s game other than it being the 10 year anniversary. Auburn is 4-2, so is Florida. Auburn has to win to stay alive in the SEC West race. Florida is coming off back-to-back SEC losses, standing on its last conference leg. It’s hardly the David vs. Goliath matchup that the 2001 edition was, but this matchup is sure to be just as exciting. I believe my story has more relevance to this Auburn team and some of the sour feeling around the program lately than tomorrow’s game specifically. It’s what Auburn is about: Pulling off the impossible, always believing we have a chance, never giving up, and celebrating like crazy when we do it. Work, hard work, if you will. You won’t always have Cam Newton; sometimes you’ll have Daniel Cobb. You won’t always go undefeated; sometimes you’ll go 5-8 (or worse). Try to remember the games like this. Try to remember the 2009 Iron Bowl where Auburn almost pulled off the impossible (again), but celebrated (again) even when we didn’t. For some it’s not always great to be an Auburn Tiger. For those people, I’m truly sad. I am glad that I can say everyday, no matter what, that it is great to be an Auburn Tiger.
War Eagle! Beat Florida!
*Alan’s grandparents, mother, and father had all attended Auburn, or API as it were; Stephen’s dad played QB at Auburn, and incidentally his brother is currently a pitcher for the baseball team; My grandfather graduated from API on his way to becoming a doctor, a fact I didn’t have all the details on until I had been at AU for a while myself.
Brett Walker is the former host of the now defunct Football on the Plains podcast. He studied both English and Philosophy at AU and now has a BA in English from Auburn University that he really wishes he could use in a productive manner. He now feels comfortable calling himself an Auburn local after living in Auburn for the last 9+ years and being engaged to an Opelika native. He can be found commenting about Auburn, Star Wars, comics, and technology via twitter @AUChief
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* So a Playmate walks into Jordan-Hare…
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Van P in Southern IL says
I was there and it was amazing. Just as Duval lined up to kick, the forecasted rain finally hit. I think his kick must have curved half a mile before hooking back through– an then the rain hit. Awesome.
Alan McNew says
Brett, first off amazing article. It honestly brought a tear to my eye thinking about that kick and what it meant to me back then. Secondly, I feel that this really sums up where “My Auburn Experience” and yours as well, started. Like you said, I think all three of us knew without a shadow of a doubt where we wanted to go to college. Something was always magical about Auburn, and this game proved that. I feel like there are defining moments in life when you just know that you are making the right decision, and this was definitely one of those moments that helped shape our future. The strong bonds that we shared as Auburn Men together laid the foundation for us to be life-long friends. I am greatly honored that you included me and my family in this article. Just like David Housel;s answer to the question, “What is Auburn?” This article could be cited as a what it mean TO WEAR ORANGE AND BLUE and call yourself an Auburn Man.
WAR EAGLE BRETT.
Look forward to tailgating with you tomorrow.
What is Auburn?
Far be it from me to try to answer that question. There are as many definitions of Auburn as there are Auburn men and women.
It would be safe to say, however, that Auburn is much more than a football game. It is much more than winning and losing.
It is a spirit. It is an attitude. It is a way of looking at life and at one another. It is, almost, a way of living. Unless you have experienced it, you will never know what it is; you will never understand it. Once you have experienced it, you will never be the same. A part of you will, forevermore, be an Auburn man or an Auburn woman.
The above quote was originally published as a part of a larger article titled “Spirit of Auburn” printed in Auburn Football Illustrated on September 20, 1980
Fantastic article… Just wanted to share: I was a freshman in ’01 living in the (now re-named) Commons (behind the AU Conference Center). I honestly couldn’t tell you why I wasn’t at the game (ok, I can, her name was Alicia and I was “fighting” another guy for her attention… Don’t judge me…).
Point being, I don’t remember much of that game, due to time and a few adult beverages in between (and during…**cough, cough**) that game. I do remember the final kick, though. It was like bullet time in The Matrix… My spider-sense kicked in and I could feel the fly in my little room slowly flapping it’s wings. The following insanity in the Commons that night was epic (to use a word we didn’t even use then… Dag-nabit kids…).
One of my final memories of the night was going to the third floor because, for some reason, people were storming there. As we approached people were just pushing their way in, when I arrived, there must have been 50 people in the room, screaming, cheering and drinking. I looked to my right and saw the third floor RA, standing on the sink, taking a funnel of beer. I mean, really, how do you top that? (side note: he was fired less than a week later…).
Looking forward to the game tomorrow… It’s a combo bachelor party for my cousin-in-law too, so if you are out and about and hear about a bunch of guys and a bachelor party, be nice and offer them a drink!! War Eagle!!
My wife got tickets for this game as a surprise birthday present…number 60. All I could think when I opened the envelope was: “we are going to drive 5 hours to watch UF beat the crap out of us and then I have to drive five hours back home”. None the less we went as scheduled and it was the best AU game I had seen in many years. As noted above, I had never seen so much hook on a FG….looked for certain he would miss it when it left his foot but then the place (me included) went bonkers. A great birthday celebration. WDE
My friends and I were at that game. Remember it like it was yesterday. We were hanging out at the house, grilling some food, drinking some beers, debating on whether or not to go to the game. Everyone gave us exactly 0 chance of winning and it was a rainy, soggy day. Who wants to go watch your football team get demolished by the #1 team in the nation? That’s when it hit me, “But what if we win?”. So we decided to go under the assumption that we would leave and drink more beer at the half if we were doing as bad as everyone predicted…well i think everyone knows the rest of the story. It was definitely the LOUDEST game I have ever been to.
Awe, I loved this game! It was my second date with my (now) husband and the first time he met my parents 🙂 I remember jumping up and down in the stands, screaming my head off, in the rain!!! What a wonderful memory.
Thanks for all the kind words. I love the stories around the game. I had forgotten the way the rain started to pour in Auburn. That part had been crazy as well, since moments later the rain came down 300 miles south in Destin as well.
@Ted – I suppose a Happy Birthday is in order for you then, sir! Let’s hope the Tigers make it another good one!
@Stephen – the characters in my story lived on the 2nd floor of the Commons the next year, so your comment is highly appropriate. Oh the Commons.
The next year we played UGA to a nail-biting and eventually tragic ending. That was the only time since the Florida game the year before that the field might have gotten rushed (even with CSC and all the Troopers in the state lined up along the end zone). Alan and I were there for that too, plotting the best way to avoid being pepper-sprayed.
The only time I actually got on the field to celebrate with players was the 2002 Iron Bowl, in Tuscaloosa. Now THAT was a great time.
After being out and about in town for a little bit last night, I have a feeling tonight’s game is going to have one of the craziest, electric atmospheres we’ve had in a while. It’s going to be fun.