Phil Neel Was a Great Auburn Man in the Truest and Finest Sense of the Word
Little did Phil Neel realize back in 1959 what an impact his drawing of a tiger would have on the lives of thousands of people and on the university he loved. Neel was the Birmingham Post-Herald artist who created the playful ‘Aubie the Auburn Tiger’ on October 3, 1959.
Since that day the iconic mascot has become a recognizable Ambassador for Auburn all over the world. He has come to embody the Auburn spirit and along the way he has become a part of Auburn lore. The man who created the legendary mascot passed away today, he was 84.
Former Auburn Athletic Director David Housel said that Phil Neel …
“Was an Auburn man, a great Auburn man and the truest and finest sense of the word. Phil was proof that you didn’t have to go to Auburn to have an Auburn attitude and Auburn values. As important as Aubie is, sending his children to Auburn is an even greater compliment to his belief in Auburn …Two of them, Mike and Rick, were on the football team. Mike was the captain of The Amazins in 1972.”
Housel said, “Phil’s creation of Aubie is a part of our legend. It gave personification and a face to the name Auburn Tigers.”
It really is hard to explain to non Auburn people how much Aubie the Tiger means to us. Outsiders see a cartoon character – we see all that is good and unique about the Auburn experience.
From toddlers to geriatrics, we all love Aubie the Tiger. He is one of those things that bind us, that connects us, that makes us feel apart of the Auburn Family.
A lot of Auburn people remember the first time they saw Aubie. My earliest recollection of Aubie was as a 10 year old child attending an Auburn vs. UT Chattanooga Football game. There was a picture on the front of the program of Aubie pushing an old fashion hand lawn mower over tall grass and the UTC Moccasin was in the grass about to be run over.
I also will never forget how quickly my children and later my grandchildren fell in love with Aubie. When my infant grandson O’Conor first saw Aubie at a football game last fall, he became so excited he started hollering and pointing to Aubie. All the fans for 2-3 rows in front and behind us enjoyed the moment as much as O’Conor did.
He’s two now and can’t say many words. Yet one of his most used words is, “Aubie.” When he comes to visit, he points to my lap top and says, “Aubie,” meaning he wants to sit in my lap and look at pictures of Aubie. Those are precious moments for a grandpa and I owe them all to Phil Neel.
Thanks Phil for the memories and for the joy you have brought to all of us. You will be missed but because of Aubie, you will never be forgotten.
A part of you will live on in the hearts and minds of Auburn people every where.
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