Most reflections on the life of Burt Reynolds reference his college days at Florida State. Reynolds actually played halfback for the Seminoles in 1954. He wasn’t half bad.
But the legendary actor also had a surprising number of coincidental connections to Auburn–the sort of stuff that make the radar of a guy who’s made a thing out of tracking Auburn’s presence in pop culture.
In the 1973 moonshine flick “White Lightning,” a teenage hippie residing at Sister Linda Faye’s Home For Unwed Mothers implies to Reynolds character (Gator McKlusky) that famously conservative Auburn University was actually a staging ground for liberal radicals.
In 1977, two years before she’d film “Norma Rae” in neighboring Opelika, Sally Field was photographed in an Auburn T-shirt on the set of “Smokey and the Bandit” standing next to co-star and future boyfriend Burt Reynolds.
A few years after that, another Auburn T-shirt appeared in yet another Reynolds car flick, “Cannonball Run.”
Also appearing in “Cannonball Run”? Actor Roy Tatum, a former Auburn football star turned actor who credits his start in Hollywood to his uncanny resemblance to, yep, Burt Reynolds.
Tatum also appeared in “Norma Rae,” playing a mill boss in several scenes with Field, who Reynolds was by that time dating. The superstar frequently visited Field on the set and was occasionally spotted around Opelika.
Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley-Johnson, former editor of the Auburn Plainsman, swears that Reynolds once appeared on “The Tonight Show” wearing a T-shirt that asked “Where in the hell is Opelika?”
He didn’t have to ask that about Auburn…
… because Burt Reynolds’ first (that we know of) and most direct connection with Auburn? His 1954 visit to Cliff Hare Stadium for Florida State’s first game ever against the Tigers.
Auburn won 33-0, but Burt “Buddy” Reynolds 54-yard rumble down to the Auburn eight was actually FSU’s biggest gain of the day. He recalled the run in his 2016 memoir “But Enough About Me.”