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The first story Selena Roberts ever wrote about an Auburn player receiving extra benefits

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“Sometimes too many no-no’s can ruin a career.”

Oh… she’s talking about Jeff Burger. And puberty.*

From the Thursday, October 29, 1987 issue of the Auburn Plainsman:

Little Herbert liked to hunt

Selena Roberts
Assistant Sports Editor

I don’t know…. do you think Lawyer Tillman can catch?

And what about that Aundray Bruce fella… do you think he can tackle?

It’s funny, every little boy (and little girl) in America starts out as an Aundray or Lawyer in that All-American passion that can turn a Kool-Aid mother into a chain saw murderess—pee-wee football.

But somewhere along the way, a transformation takes place.

For girls… well, let’s just say by age 14 those shoulder pads don’t fit like they used to—know what I mean? But for boys, many a career has shattered in tragedy, like that of Little Herbert Ralph Watson Jr. At age 11, Little Herbert Ralph Watson Jr. was captain of the the Notasulga Gnats. Rooted on by fans (a.k.a. parents / relatives) and knobby-kneed, not-yet-developed cheerleaders, Herbert was the star of the team.

At 5-foot-2, 110 pounds, Herbert played quarterback—he was the offense. Yes, he leads the league (all three teams) in passing yards, running yards and chipped teeth. What a player… what an athlete.

Little Herbert’s biggest worry was putting on that darn jockstrap the coach made the boys wear.

Big Herbert Ralph Watson Sr. took a big breath, swelled up his chest, pulled on his suspenders and proudly pronounced ‘Yeah, that No. 12 down there, yeah, that’s my boy. He’ll probably be playing for Auburn someday.’

Mrs. Wanda Watson sat in the stands, needle-point in one hand and a chain saw in the other, just in case one of those officials didn’t see things the way she did.

Little Herbert’s career flourished from ages 11-13, mini-Heisman trophy talk buzzed through the town. You see, he had broken some records of this other fella named Little Patrick O’Sullivan.

Well, things were floating along nicely for Little Herbert. Although his school work suffered a bit, all his teachers loved him. Oh, who needs to know how to write those silly essays anyway? And who could resist that red hair and boyish grin?

And Little Herbert… well, he was a popular kid. He liked to hunt and fish and hunt, especially in far away places. You know, places that you might even need a plane to get to.

What’s wrong with a kid going hunting?

Nothing, really. Unless there is a rule saying you can’t go if all the other children aren’t invited, meaning Little Herbert Ralph Watson received an ‘extra benefit’—a definite no-no.

Sometimes too many no-no’s can ruin a career.

* But mostly about puberty. And it’s really weird.

Related: Selena Roberts, Auburn student journalist.


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