Auburn has a notable history in the pages of Playboy—and for once we’re not talking ladies.
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!
1969: It was only four years, but a lot had changed in America since Auburn’s last All-Playboy-American. The Plains, however, remained mostly insulated. And if you were talking about Student Power in Auburn in 1969, everyone would have thought you were talking about Dave Campbell. In 1968, the AP twice-selected the defensive tackle SEC lineman of the week, and he got the weekly national nod once from Sports Illustrated. Playboy’s prognosticators were probably inspired by his inspired performance against Miami. Auburn held the Hurricanes to -85 yards rushing. Seventy-one of those negative yards came from Campbell’s nine tackles for a loss.
1970: Larry Willingham: Defensive Back extraordinaire, St. Louis Cardinal, Birmingham Vulcan / American, 2003 Alabama Sports Hall of Fame inductee. He made seven other All-American lists in 1970, in addition to Playboy’s (can’t believe they didn’t make the shadow the Bunny logo). Power to the Tigers, baby.
1971: The pigskin poetry that was 1971 deserves a rhyme: This year we had two. You’ll never guess who. Listen to this song if you need a clue. (Or watch this great video of Bob Hope’s All-American Show.)
1974: If only our ’74 representative had been a tight end. Alas… but only alas in terms of puns lost and giggles that might been thanks to the artistic direction Playboy took with their September 1974 cover. Because Ken Bernich, one of the most memorable, menacing mugs in Auburn’s defensive history, was a terror at linebacker. No alas there. He was later drafted by the Chargers. He played some for the Jets. He was a man.
1980: Auburn’s biggest All-American drought came, not unexpectedly, during Doug Barfield’s tenure as head coach. Six years. Sheesh. But there was no denying James Brooks the pages of Playboy. Brooks ran the hell out of the ball, setting Auburn’s record for all-purpose yards (5,596) while splitting carries with the likes of Joe Cribbs and Willie Andrews. He was a Bo. But soon there would be The Bo. So not really.
1983: Despite stories like this, this, this, and of course what you’ve seen up to this point in the one you’re reading now, TWER censors have deemed only the top half of the September 1983 issue’s appropriate to post… which is really a shame because Kymberly Herrin, per the dictates of Flashdance fashion, is rocking some killer 1983 leg warmers. We wish we could make up for it with a veritable Wikipedia entry on defensive end Doug Smith, the first Auburn Playboy All-American of the Pat Dye era (though not the first Auburn student to be in the magazine in the Pat Dye era), but save for his inclusion in the Pigskin Preview likely being some welcome positive press (along with Playboy actually listing Auburn at the top of its pre-season poll) in the wake of the tragic practice field death of first-team fullback Greg Pratt (which according to the 1984 Glomerata “put Auburn in the public view whether it wanted to be there or not”), we simply just don’t now that much about him. We do know that his decision whether to go with the Houston Oilers or the Birmingham Stallions after graduation got a little attention for whatever reason. He eventually played for both. And we think that’s him in that awesome photo after the ’82 Iron Bowl.
1984. Our second twofer: On defense, Greg Carr, a gentle stud who lettered four years at linebacker for Auburn and was 1984’s most honored SEC athlete. It’ll take too long to talk about those honors. Just go here. We will say that he’s an Alabama Sports Hall of Famer and currently an orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham. On offense, Bo, reclining at the feet of Howard Schnellenberger like his father after him. Once again going for halfsies, cover-wise.
1985: And there it is—Mr. Bo Jackson becomes our first Playboy All-American repeater. He is our eternal centerfold.
1987: Of course, one of the reasons Bo made Playboy is because Stacy Searels made Playboy. Kind of a chicken and egg thing, maybe—point is Searels helped open up Heisman-winning holes for Bo and later Brent Fullwood like few could. And he could pass block with the best of’em, too, which he definitely needed to in ’87 (see 1988 entry). He also made the AP and Football News All-American lists and was a fourth-round draft pick for the Chargers. And such an alliterative name; ditto cover model and Playmate Brandi Brandt.
1988: Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, whatever. You’ll never be able to convince the nine-year-old Auburn fan in me that Lawyer Tillman isn’t the best player in that top photo. Well, Barry Sanders was pretty good, I guess, especially in Madden ’92. But Lawyer’s name is Lawyer, for crying out loud, and in my mind he laid down the long bomb law like few players have since. He’s joined on defense by another era-defining, offensive line-defying talent with a killer name, Tracy Rocker. Somebody make some posters…
1990: I know what you’re thinking—”I could have sworn I remember seeing Auburn players in the 1989 Playboy Pigskin Preview issue…” Well, that’s because you did, pervert—they just weren’t All-Americans. And they weren’t posing with dudes. The All-American dude-posing didn’t come again until 1990 thanks to noseguard Ed King and defensive tackle David “Brother of Rocker” Rocker. King was the third Auburn player to be named an All-American his sophomore year. As a junior in 1990 he was a consensus All-American. He probably would have been our second repeater had he not foregone his senior year. But he did, trading the pages of Playboy for the pages of Gameday, the program of the Cleveland Browns, who drafted him in the second round. David Rocker wasn’t quite the stud brother Tracy was, but he got close—1990 Lombardi Trophy finalist close. In addition to Playboy, he made the Walter Camp and Kodak Coaches teams in 1990, making the Rockers Auburn’s first All-in-the-Family All-Americans. He spent three years with the Rams. He and Tracy remain brothers to this day.
1994: Talent-wise, at least in the eyes of Playboy, the end of Pat Dye’s reign was as dry as the beginning was wet. Who got us out of the drought? A man named Terry Daniel who looked more like a tight end and punted balls so high, so long, rival coaches accused him of filling them with helium. He had the best season for an Auburn punter ever in 1993 and his sex appeal was a natural fit in the magazine—according to long snapper Brian Brinsfield, Daniel had “the best butt in college football.” Speaking of sex appeal, the cover, again… too much. (But the five Auburn coeds who posed for the October 1994 issue’s “Girls of the SEC” feature inside Jordan-Hare Stadium passed inspection.)
1995: Willie Anderson was All-SEC in ’94 and ’95, but the AP All-American selectors only deemed him worthy of their second team. Playboy, however, saw a bit more in the offensive tackle in his senior year and had him dressing out to protect Tommie Frazier (there was no dressing out for the Oct. 1995 issue’s cover model, however—not even half a cover’s worth). Going by his NFL career, Playboy had it right. Anderson was a five-time Pro-Bowler—five times in a row. The Internet also says he bench pressed 675 pounds his rookie season and that he owns some Fatburger restaurants in Atlanta and Cincinnati, which is possibly the most All-American thing ever.
1997: Victor Riley started 34 games at Auburn at either tackle or guard, eight as a true freshman. He was on the Coaches’ All-American first team his senior year and lead the team in pancake blocks with 13. That’s a big breakfast. He holds the distinction of not only being the last Auburn player of the Bowden-era heralded as a Playboy All-American, but the first to be featured in a Pigskin Preview issue with a specifically football-themed cover (if you don’t count the fall-ish feel of ’58), which we’ve decided to show. We believe that as long as we maintain the standard set by The Plainsman in 1952 (WWTP52D?), we’re good to go.
2001: These days, Kendall Simmons is as committed in his fight against diabetes as he was committed to this inexplicable photo shoot, the first and thankfully last All-American shoot to go with a theme other than football. To his credit Kendall is the only dude really owning the Thunderdome of it all, flexin’ his muscle for the camera like he flexed his muscle on the field. At Auburn he was a two-time All-American, a two-time nominee for both the Outland and Lombardi Awards, and the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner. As a pro, he was a two-time Super Bowl champ with the Steelers.
2002: Our second punter, our first placekicker, our one and only Damon Duval. Before he kicked game-winning touchdowns (you read right) for the Montreal Allouettes, he was kicking game-winning field goals for Auburn. He kicked three in 2001, including a 44-yarder you may have seen on YouTube. He also punted the ball over 9,000 yards in his Auburn career. Duval was a consensus All-American in 2001 and a finalist for the Lou Groza award.
2003: Maybe if Playboy had been the only magazine Dansby had appeared in before the season, 2003 might not have felt like such a disappointment. It wasn’t. But Dansy wasn’t a disappointment. He was a Butkus Award semi-finalist his senior year thanks to his 84 tackles (50 of them solo), 5.5 sacks, 13 stops for losses, 6 pass deflections, and 4 caused fumbles. As a pro, he’s been even more prolific. And he’s been rewarded for it—in 2010, the Miami Dolphins signed him to a five-year, $43 million contract, which at the time was the most ever offered an outside linebacker.
2004: Only one Playboy All-American on the 2004 Auburn Tigers. And yet two photos? There’s Carnell “Cadillac” Williams in the first. Duh. You know about him. But who are we looking for in the second? [Michael Scott mode:] I don’t know. It could be any number of people. It could be a pedestrian. It could be a old person. It could be a looky-loo. Or, it could be… a current Alabama head football coach? What? Who said that? I did. Why did I say that? Oh I think you know why I said that. I think it is very apparent. I think it goes without saying, bare with me. There’s a point there. But what is the point? I don’t understand what he’s saying. It seems a little shady. It seems a little foggy. Well, it’s not a little foggy, there’s really something going on here. (What’s going on here is that Playboy selected Nick Saban as the All-American coach that year.)
2008: Sen’Derrick Marks his territory. That’s just what he does, what he did, what he will likely continue to do for the Tennessee Titans. In 2008, the first claim the defensive lineman staked was the top step in the Playboy Pigskin Preview photo shoot studio. Numerous All-Everything and award watch lists–Outland, Nagurski–followed. He was, I suppose, the last nationally-respected star of the Tuberville denouement, but despite the debacle that was 2008, we’re assuming Sen’Derrick would have us prepping one more entry had he not left after his junior year.
But he did. And here we are at the end, 28 Auburn Playboy All-Americans and 23 seductive stares later. Fifty years of Auburn history. And herstory. It’s been a labor of love.
Related: Auburn student says posing for Playboy nothing but positive.
* Auburn-educated astronaut wanted ‘War Eagle’ to be first words on the moon
* Smithsonian Magazine photographs kid in Auburn hat at Texas prom
* The WiFi Network Names of Auburn
* Auburn’s Legend of Zelda
* That time they burned the Glom
* Auburn’s 1960 cheesecake schedule
* I think of Kurt Crain
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As for Doug Smith ’83 (who you claimed not to know much about), he hung around the football team circa 2000-2001 as some sort of a special defensive line coach. When he wasn’t on the practice field yelling (with a booming voice that made Don Dunn sound like a pipsqueak), he was hanging around with former AU defensive lineman Ben Thomas up at Sewell Hall. Those two were the most intimidating dorm bosses of all-time.
Outstanding work – but you missed Jackie Burkett in the 1959 issue. He’s right above Zeke.
So ashamed. Corrected. Thanks!
Were there football players somewhere on this page?
Ed King was an offensive lineman, not a noseguard.