Our good friend Klell asked me to blog this week. I don't have access to videos or anything like he does, so I thought I would just tell about some of my favorite players over the years. These are in no particular order. (Well, maybe the first one is in order)
1. Bo Jackson- When I was a kid, he was my favorite player. I was born in the mid 70s to two graduates of Auburn, one of whom was already a 2nd generation fan and graduate. We went to games every year and he is the FIRST player I remember. When I think of my childhood as an Auburn fan, I think of Bo. His athletic ability aside, he was such an exciting player to watch. My sister and I actually got the opportunity to meet him after the Sugar Bowl against Michigan.
2. Lionel James- My little sister and I had matching jerseys. She had a Little Train jersey and I had a Bo one. One of my favorite pictures of us is with our jerseys on in the parking lot of Jordan-Hare. It was fun to see the two of them together; big, muscled Bo, and the smaller Lionel. He played with a big heart though and I never paid much attention to his size!
3. Tre Smith- It turned out that I watched this Iron Bowl in an appliance store, so I got to watch it on multiple large screen televisions. What I loved about him was that he came out of nowhere with amazing tenacity. It was fun to watch him run the ball all over the field on a giant screen. I was in Hattiesburg, and most people there are not Auburn fans, but other store patrons got tickled to see how excited I was. I was jumping around all over the place!
4. Philip Lutzenkirchen- I loved watching Philip play. He was a true leader on the team from the time he was a sophomore. He played for the love of the game and for the fans- and for Auburn. He was a leader on and off the field, especially with his work with FCA. He was also involved with children with cancer. There is a special place in my heart for athletes who give back. There are some guys who just have that IT factor and he happens to have it. I will miss him playing for our team, but he is one I will always root for, no matter what pro team he plays for.
5.Cam Newton- I can't do this list without Cam. I have never seen a player with such dynamic energy. He passed the energy on to others as well. The worse the media hounded him, the better he played. He made it super exciting to watch games. Every time he set foot on the field, he gave nothing less than his best. It was an incredible year to watch college football. I also was amazed to learn about the mentoring sessions that Cam set up with kids. I know people think it was part of a publicity stunt, but I hear he has kept in contact with them. That makes a forever mark on a young kiddo.
6. Nosa Eguae- Nosa has always played hard. He is talented. What I like about Nosa is that he plays for the TEAM and OTHERS. He rarely is about himself. He also spent a lot of time with FCA, even doing an internship with them. The world needs more Nosas! It would be a better place! He leads by example and plays with heart. One of my favorites!
7. Zac Etheridge- If you are an Auburn fan (and if you are reading this blog, chances are you are a fan), you know Zac's story. I had the opportunity to meet him at the Senior Bowl. He was amped up and very excited to be there. He was cheerful and fun with everyone. Zac reminds me of the kind of guy who could be your brother or best friend. I met his parents after the 2010 AU/UGA game and they were just as nice as he was. Determination and willpower aren't strong enough words for him. He is an example of God's grace with enthusiasm. He could have taken the easy way out and not return to football, but he did. He's coaching now and making a difference in the lives of other guys. Here's to you, Zac!
8. Chad Slade- Most recently, Chad has spent a lot of time with a young man with cancer. Even when it got tough and was obvious Thomas wasn't going to make it, Chad stuck by him. Thomas loved Auburn football and I know Chad's visits gave him some joy. I also like the way Chad carries himself. I look for big things from him this year!
9. Wes Byrum- Wes was good under pressure, even as a freshman. I won't forget the AU/FL game his freshman year. Florida fans were catcalling and gator-chomping him. The other coach called a time-out and tried to ice him out. Bam! He nails it for the win! In 2010, time after time, he was relied on to win the game. Anyone who said the 2010 team was a one-man show obviously didn't watch very much. We relied on Wes several times. In the championship game, I realized it was going to come down to a field goal. There was a shot of Wes on the sidelines and he had an ice-cold stare. I just KNEW at that moment we had won. Wes was in the zone!
10.Onterio McCalebb- Here is another player who has overcome odds. He had to get some things straight grade-wise, and he worked extra hard to become eligible. He didn't grow up with ideal circumstances, but he always managed to keep it together while he was at Auburn. If you listened to his interviews, everything he said credited others. He would talk about the team, the coaches, or thank his blockers. He rarely took credit himself. I wish more players had this attitude.
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