Dec. 2, 1972 was amazing. Sarah Newton planned to go out with Bill that night, of course. That’s usually the way it went after the games. A lot of people were planning on staying up in Birmingham. But they had decided to drive back to Auburn, win or lose. They both had finals on Monday. They could maybe get some late dinner and just hang out at Sewell Hall, or maybe grab some toilet paper and head up to Toomer’s Corner, which had become a thing that season. At least, hopefully they could. Fingers crossed. Whatever happened, they’d be together.
They’d only been a thing a little while. They were from the same area — their high schools were rivals — but only met at Auburn. She was in biology with some of the football players. Bill asked them to introduce him. He’d seen her around. He liked they way she walked to class. He liked the ways she walked up the stairs.
Eventually, they got married — the cheerleader and the guy who blocked the punts.
She didn’t even know he’d actually gotten both of them until later… probably right around the time she and her best friend Susan put on those Go To Hell Bama cowboy hats on and climbed as high as they could up some of the Legion Field beams, still in their cheerleader uniforms, and absolutely out of their War Damn minds.
It took a little while for their dates to come out of the locker room. Bill, hot, exhausted, still trying to recuperate, got out first. He wasn’t the main draw. There was still a little confusion as to who’d gotten the second one. Aw shucks, he told the reporters, it didn’t matter. If he hadn’t, Roger would have.
David, stark naked, a touchdown ball in each arm — Bill never got one, except for the photo — was where the quotes were.
“Listen, David was a different animal,” Sarah says. “Bill and I headed back to Auburn, but I think Susan stayed. Susan had a date with David.”
Susan Swink, the smallest on the squad, the only one who could do the banned Bird Flip, still kind of had a hometown boyfriend at the time. But she knew most all the football players, of course. She and David had gone out a time or two. It wasn’t serious. Just friends. It never turned into anything. But she thinks they maybe went to the beach one time, maybe Fort Walton. It’s hard to remember.
That night exactly 50 years ago isn’t.
“It was the 4th quarter and we were losing and I’d had an experience in high school (Millbrook) where we’d won in the last second. So, I went to each of the couples — the cheerleaders were partnered up, a guy and a girl — I just remember saying ‘y’all keep cheering, we can win this, I’ve see it happen.’ I kind of gave them a little pep talk — do not give up. And then, when it happened, at the end, everyone was just in a state of shock. Everyone — the Auburn people, the Alabama people. It was like we were just frozen in time.
“Nobody left. Everyone was just sitting there, stunned, in shock. It was like, ‘what just happened?’ I remember our cheerleader sponsor was on our little trampoline, bouncing up and down. Then David and I went out afterwards. It was one of those clubs in Birmingham. I didn’t drink then, but people were buying him drinks all night. He was just passing them out.”
Sewell Hall was a little calmer.
“Bill was just beat to pieces,” Sarah says. “He spent hours picking artificial turf out of his elbows. But when we got to Sewell, that’s when he started getting calls from reporters.
“I’m really glad you called. Every year, Bill gets all the attention.”