One Special Moment for a Little Boy’s Auburn Heroes
Coach Shug Jordan with Tucker Frederickson and Jimmy Sidle
I always enjoy homecoming at Auburn. I enjoy seeing the college students dressed up in their best orange and blue, the homecoming half time festivities, and especially watching the alumni band march out and perform on Pat Dye Field. I find the whole scene moving. And this year was particularly special as it was the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest Auburn Football Teams to ever play on The Plains.
As I sat in the stands and watched the members of Shug Jordan’s 1963 team being introduced – my mind was taken back to my childhood and to a different era of Auburn Football. It was a simpler time. It was a time when football was all about whipping the guy in front of you. Spread offenses, wide open passing attacks, and fast paced games were not yet known, at least not in the South Eastern Conference. The SEC of the early 60’s was a time when football was best described as three – four yards and a cloud of dust.
The 60’s was a time when work, grit, and determination defined a football player. And it was a time when players often played both ways. It was a time, for the most part, when offense focuses on the run game, and only passed the football when it was absolutely necessary.
Some of the best players Shug Jordan ever coached were on that ’63 team. Players like Linebacker and later NFL star wild Bill Cody, Offensive and Defensive Lineman Bill Van Dike, and back up quarterback and Iron Bowl hero Mailon Kent.
I don’t know why but I was a little shocked when I saw my childhood heroes being introduced. Bodies once strong and athletic were now withered and marked by the ravages of time. Time has a way of doing that – even to the mightiest. But for one brief moment in time they were young again. Young and strong as they watched videos of their exploits on the stadium jumbotron. Young again as they heard their names called our over the stadium public address system and once again basked in the roar of the crowd.
A young group of men who had some of the best chemistry of any team Auburn has ever fielded. There was no doubt they were loaded with talent. Will Walls of the Pittsburgh Steelers said that year, “Auburn’s got more potential pros than any team in the country. They’ve got two ends I like, two tackles, a punter, a center and a linebacker [Bill Cody] who’s flat gonna kill some people someday.”
And … they also had my all time two favorite players, Jimmy Sidle and Tucker Frederickson.
The late Jimmy Sidle had been a star quarterback at Banks High school in Birmingham. He had a powerful arm that had college recruiters just drooling to sign him. Jimmy had grown up an Auburn fan though and when Shug Jordan came calling, he chose Auburn.
In that day freshmen were prohibited by the NCAA from playing varsity sports. Consequently Sidle started his playing days on Auburn’s freshmen team playing for Auburn Assistant Coach Vince Dooley. He said, “Coach Dooley liked the way I ran. So he developed me into a running quarterback.”
Sidle led the Tigers to a 9-1 record, the only blemish coming in a narrow loss to Mississippi State. The Maroon Bulldogs kicked a 36 yard field goal with 28 seconds left on the clock to steal the win. That field goal kept the Tigers from playing for a national championship. However, Auburn finished the regular season by defeating Joe Namath and the Crimson Tide 10-8, to earn a birth in the Orange Bowl and a top five ranking in the polls.
That magical year, Jimmy made both All-American and All-SEC teams. He rushed for 1,006 yards and led the SEC in total offense. The success of the Tiger’s ’63 season prompted Sports Illustrated to pick Auburn to win the national championship for the following year. A prediction that went south when Sidle was injured against Houston at the beginning of the season. The magazine also put a painting of Jimmy Sidle on it’s cover page and declared him the best of all of the nation’s running backs. That was a huge compliment considering that Gayle Sayers was playing for Kansas that same year.
Tucker Frederickson came to Auburn from Hollywood, Florida. One of the most sought after high school players in the nation, he chose Auburn in large part because of the Vet School. He went on to become one of the most feared and dominating players in the game, playing both Full back on offense and Safety on defense. He both ran the ball and blocked for Sidle, helping to pave the way for Jimmy’s 1000 yard season.
The next year he won the Jacobs Award as the best blocking back in the SEC and was a consensus All-American and runner-up for the Heisman. Tucker was the No.1 (first overall pick) in the 1965 NFL draft by the New York Giants. A player who only comes along once in a hundred years, he was voted as Auburn’s Player of the Century; which really says it all about the athlete that Shug Jordan said was the most complete football player he had ever seen. Jordan said that both he and teammate Jimmy Sidle could have played any position on the field.
Yes for one brief moment all those memories came rushing back to me, I was transposed to my childhood, cheering for my gridiron heroes. I can only imagine how Shug’s boys must have felt as they once again heard the cheers of the Auburn family. It had to be a special moment for them. I know it was for the little boy that lives inside of me.