2009 was an exciting but a little disappointing for me. I probably wouldn't use the word disappointing if I hadn't attended the 2009 Kentucky game. With my 3 yr old twin nieces...who got sick and puked at the game. In extremely cold weather. With rain.
OK, moving on. At any rate, we were off to a fast start with a bump in the middle. Then comes Halloween. Playing Ole Miss is always scary for me. I lived in Mississippi for a while. I still teach there. I have lots of friends who are Ole Miss alum. That game is burned in my memory forever. I remember the theme of Navy Nightmare. The game was a whirlwind just like the rest of the season had been.
Then came the short play which changed lives. It just seemed like a regular play. Then I, along with everyone else, realized an Auburn player looked like a dishrag on the field. It looked at first as if an Auburn and an Ole Miss player were down. Of course, we didn't realize until later that Rodney Scott was not injured, but listening to the voice of God. Over the years, I've read everything I can on the incident. I've read Zac and Rodney's account of what happened. I read Coach Chizik's and Brother Chette's accounts. I listened to what Rodney and Coach Nutt said about it. I have never seen or felt the silence and fear in JHS. Not in a loss, a win, or in any other situation in my lifetime. Looking back at 2009, I think there were several things that launched 2010 to be a championship season, and I think this is one of them. I saw players leaning on each other. I saw Zac's friend, Walt McFadden walking alongside the stretcher. I saw scared players. I listened to local sports radio analysis. Everyone agreed: Zac would not play football again. Well, everyone didn't bother to tell Zac or his mom.
After Zac started rehab, he became active on twitter. He followed fans and interacted with them. He kept everyone updated and made us all feel like we were part of his resolve to heal completely. I remember checking my phone on twitter when I read that Zac had been cleared to play. I gotta tell you, I was still a little skeptical. I thought sure, he is released but will he ever be able to tackle and take hits?
Of course, we all know what happened. I remember seeing him triumphantly run a touchdown vs Arkansas when the ball was fumbled. The whole time that play was being reviewed, everyone around me was murmuring, 'That cannot be taken away from Zac'. And it wasn't. The score stood and so did Zac. I met Zac's parents after the 2010 Georgia game. I saw them waiting with anticipation for their miracle child to emerge.
I got to meet him in 2011 at the Senior Bowl. He was friendly, kind, and energetic. He was soaking up every single bit of excitement in that meet the players event.
At any point, Zac could have taken the easy way out. No one would have blamed him. He didn't do that though. So today, Auburn will honor one of the greatest men to be a part of Auburn with the award named for another one of the greatest Auburn men. Courage! A hard quality to define, but if I had to, I would use Zac's story to describe courage. Zac deserves this more than anyone I can think of, but I am sure if you asked him, he probably would think someone else should get it. War Eagle, Zac. Thank you for everything you did and still do for Auburn. I will cheer for you wherever you are coaching!