Thomas McKleroy might drive to Jordan-Hare Stadium today. Or he might drive to the hospital for the birth of his grandchild. It could go either way.
“I’d sure hate to miss it,” McKleroy says of Auburn’s 2013 season opener again Washington State. “But I think family is more than important than a ballgame.”
Even if it would be his 400th game in a row.
McKleroy, a retired elementary school principal who lives in Oxford, has a perfect Auburn football attendance record dating back to the Tigers’s 1980 season opener vs. TCU, which he had tickets for, but for some reason he can’t remember didn’t go to. Before that, he had only missed three games since 1975. Everything you remember about Auburn football for the past 33 years, McKleroy saw and smelled and heard and felt in person.
McKleroy graduated from Auburn in 1968 and has been a season ticket holder since 1973 (“or maybe 1974”).
“I didn’t intend to (start a streak),” he says. “We just always went to most of the games and we loved to travel, and after a few years I hadn’t missed any and I just kept doing it.”
His favorite games?
“Well, when we beat Alabama in ’82 with Bo over the top, that one was hard to top. And of course the national championship game, and beating Alabama 28-27, that was unbelievable,” McKleroy says. “But another one, to me, was the 42-41 Florida State game in Tallahassee (in 1984). That was just a great game back and forth. I guess those games really stand out. In ’86, when Lawyer Tillman ran the reverse. I know that LSU game in 2004 when we beat’em 10-7 was a good one.”
McKleroy says the 1993 Arkansas game was also pretty memorable. And cold. McKleroy took a charter flight to Fayetteville. The plane skidded in the snow and landed with the left wing on the ground.
In 2002, McKleroy flew out to Los Angeles with his daughter Gena, then a senior at Auburn, to see the Tigers take on USC. But he had to be at work the next morning. Thankfully, construction at the school forced them to open late that Tuesday. He was the first one there. But he says that was the closest he’s come to missing a game. Until, possibly, today.
Friday afternoon, after getting a “#400” cake from his wife after church on Wednesday night, and doing a few interviews about his upcoming milestone, Jenna began experiencing what she thought were labor pains. McKleroy rushed over to the house to keep an eye on his other grandchildren.
As of Saturday morning, she was still at home, not in labor. And McKleroy was still gearing up for the two-hour trip to the Plains.
“She seems to be doing well,” McKleroy says. “Looks like she may hopefully hold off. Hopefully.”
“Hopefully it’ll be a win.”
[UPDATE] He made it.
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