A grand total of twenty-nine Auburn football players have been named Playboy All-Americans since the magazine first got into the pre-season prognostication game back in 1957. We know this thanks to the yeoman’s work done by a guy named Mark Bolding, who has posted to his curious personal domain every issue’s worth of Playboy All-American names and photos. Go there and check it out. It’s great. But if you’re only interested in seeing the Tigers’ contributions, just keep scrolling.
We’ve included most (but not all, i.e., not all of each—we have standards) of the covers not just for puns like Down, Set, SMUT!, but to innocently convey the full cultural context in which our heroes earned and enjoyed their accolades. If, with this collection of photos of every shoot an Auburn player was invited to, our SEO dominance of “Auburn + Playboy” increases ten-fold, SO BE IT.
Now… Down, Set, SMUT! (no, seriously, it’s not that bad).
1957: End Jimmy Phillips certainly gave a stirring performance in 1957, justifying his inclusion in Playboy’s debut All-American list by helping lead Auburn to a national championship. If you want to get technical with it and interpret his pole position as significant of something other than a random layout decision, I suppose you could call him Playboy’s first All-American ever. Let’s get technical with it.
1958: Offense, defense—the words were meaningless to Jerry Wilson. Playboy listed him as an end, but Wilson went both ways, as did most back in the day. But most didn’t lead an undefeated national championship contender in receiving and then two years later help the Philadelphia Eagles win the NFL championship as a defensive end. A three-year letterman, Wilson was the only unanimous selection for All-SEC honors in his Playboy year. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
1959: “Pigskin Preview” at the top, autumn leaves… I’m sure plenty house mothers let this one slide. “It’s for the football, ma’am. Zeke Smith and Jackie Burkette are in it. They’re All-Americans, dontcha know…” Despite the more than half a century that has passed since he was an Auburn star, Zeke really needs no introduction. But hey, here’s the story behind his nickname. You may know a little less about Jackie Burkett, but you shouldn’t. SEC coaches voted him the conference’s top linebacker in 1958. SEC coaches voted him the conference’s top center in 1958. He was an All-American in ’58 and ’59 and was drafted in the first round by the Colts. He also played baseball and basketball in Auburn. Jackie Burkett, he sure could play, boy.
1960: In case you weren’t already convinced that the late 50s were a golden era of Auburn football, the great Ken Rice came along to make it four years of Playboy All-American Tigers in a row. The recently married Rice, who was voted the SEC’s best offensive and defensive lineman in 1960, posed for the feature’s first group photo. Not that he necessarily ever saw it—the 1960 Pigskin Preview was the first inside an issue of Playboy with a cover that, thanks to Marli Renfro, made it look like an issue of Playboy. Something tells me a new bride wouldn’t take kindly to Janet Leigh’s shower scene body double in Psycho (starting Sept. 23 at the Tiger Theatre!) lying on the coffee table in the nude, even if she came bearing kudos for the groom. Not to worry, Rice had accolades to spare. After graduating, he was an All-Pro rookie with the Buffalo Bills, tearing it up in the NFL until tearing up his back in ’67. In 2010, he became the 30th recipient of the Walter Gilbert Award, which is named for Auburn’s three-time All-America center Walter Gilbert and “given annually to former Auburn athletes who have distinguished themselves through achievements after graduation from Auburn.”
1965: How Tucker Frederickson or Jimmy Sidle escaped Playboy’s All-American attention in the early 60s is a mystery (did they not pick up the Sept. ’64 issue of Sports Illustrated?). Whatever the reason, an Auburn player wasn’t pressed between Playmates again until 1965: Bill Cody, linebacker. You can tell by his name alone he deserved it. After Auburn, Cody went on to become an original Saint. The irony!