To See Where You Are Going You Have To Know Where You Have Been (Shug Jordan Edition)
In 1950 the Auburn football team put up a big goose egg in the win column that sent then head coach, Earl Brown packing. Athletic Director Jeff Beard corrected a mistake he made three years earlier and hired Ralph “Shug” Jordan as head coach, the same man he passed over to hire Brown.
Jordan was born in Selma, Alabama and attended AU in the late 20’s and early 30’s where he lettered in 3 sports and was chosen the Most Outstanding Athlete in 1932. After a stint as a lieutenant in the Army where he was wounded in the Normandy invasion, receiving the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, he returned to the states to coach for the Miami Seahawks of professional football and was on Wally Butts staff at Georgia.
Nicknamed “Shug” for his love of sugar cane he quickly turned things around at Auburn. After the winless 1950 season he went 5-5 his first year and led Auburn to the National Championship in 1957.
While at Auburn “Shug” compiled a record of 176-83-6 over 25 seasons and is still the winningest coach in AU history.
Jordan was a man of high character and integrity and he deeply cared for his players. Lloyd Nix said of Jordon, “I never saw him when he didn’t ask about my mother”. David Langner, the hero of the Punt Bama Punt game wrote in a recommendation for the NFF Hall of Fame, “Everything I am and everthing I hope to be, I owe to him, because he loved and cared about me as a person”
I personally met “Shug” after a home game at Auburn when I was a young boy. My Dad introduced me. He stuck out his hand and asked me what position I wanted to play on the football team. Obviously, as all young boys say I answered “Quarterback”. I was a pretty chunky youngster back then and he said, “I think you out to consider playing line and blocking for the Quarterback”. I did exactly what he said.
Last year I had the distinct pleasure of playing in a golf tournament with Chuck Fairbanks, the former head coach at Oklahoma and the New England Patriots. My wonderful wife, who can charm birds out of the trees struck up a conversation with him early one evening at a social gathering after the tournament. Calling her “That Southern Gal” he had seating arrangements changed so we could sit at his table. During the meal he told the story of how when he was a young assistant coach he was paired to play golf at a coaches meeting with “Shug” and “Bear”. The two elder coaches, wanting to check out the young guy told him they were playing for $1000. Assistants in those days did not make much so Fairbanks had to think hard before agreeing to the bet. When he did Shug said, “Don’t worry about it, we just wanted to see if you would choke”
I was really looking forward to more stories about football but sadly I did not get the chance at this years tournament. Coach Fairbanks passed away on April 2nd of this year and my “Southern Gal” wife was visibly upset. Forgive me for straying away from Auburn but his stories about the early days, knowing Shug, Bear, Bud Wilkinson, and others were priceless.
Stop me if you have heard this one
Q: How many freshman Alabama football players does it take to change a light bulb
A: Zero, it is a sophomore course.