Tribute To Auburn’s Heisman Winners
Hello once again everybody and War Eagle!
In every generation there are heroes, and so it is with college football. Auburn fans from three consecutive generations have had the distinct pleasure seeing a true college football great, bless it’s football battlefield. Each one of those former players went on to reach the pinnacle of collegiate football. Saturday morning before the A-Day game begins, Auburn University will give homage to three of it’s most famous gridiron gladiators.Chronologically they are Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson, and Cam Newton.
Jay…. I was introduced to Auburn football through Pat Sullivan. I was very young during his playing days, but I vividly remember my father explaining just how special he was on the field. Back in those days, you were lucky if you got a game a year on television, so most of my Saturday’s were spent around the radio with Dad and my grandfather. It’s funny what you remember after all these years, but my recollections of Sullivan were of me imagining how he looked on the field and what it was like to see Terry Beasley catch his passes. I can only imagine.
Acid Reign…. When I first heard of Pat Sullivan, I was nine years old. Football wasn’t a spectator sport at that age, rather it was the stuff that blared out of portable radios while you did yard work. However, just before Disney on Sunday night, you could watch the Shug Jordan and Bear Bryant shows back to back on TV. I watched impatiently at first, but this Sullivan guy could really zing the ball! And he didn’t go down when he was hit like most quarterbacks! I shudder to think how ridiculous Sullivan’s numbers would have been if Gus Malzhan was running the hurry-up back in Sullivan’s day! When we’d choose up sides in the neighborhood to play touch football, we’d also pick which real player we were. I’d always fight to be Pat Sullivan. Even the Bama kids wanted to be Pat Sullivan!
AubTigerman…. Watching Pat Sullivan was inspirational. What most people remember is the passing records and the cry “Sullivan to Beasley.” What I remember is the consummate field general that never seemed to be shaken, even when he was completing a pass with defensive linemen hanging all over him.
There were so many great plays on the field between Sullivan and his receivers. He was simply the best at what he did. I will forever remember Vince Dooley calling him superman and Bear Bryant saying that, “Sullivan does more things to beat you than any quarterback I’ve ever seen.” My fondest memory (next to beating Bama two years in a row) was when he out dueled Archie Manning in the 1970 Gator Bowl 35-28.
He always seem to me to embody the competitiveness and gentleman persona of his Coach, Shug Jordan and I think he still exemplifies what it means today to be an Auburn Man.
KoolBell – I was a young fair haired 8th grade kid playing football as a wide receiver on our Junior Varsity football team at Wetumpka High School when Pat Sullivan won his Heisman. I was most assuredly an Auburn fan, at a time when Auburn football on television consisted of the post game show with Phil Snow from WSFA-12. There are precious few highlights of Pat in his glory days at Auburn. In one of the few videos available, here is a clip of Pat in action against the Georgia Bulldogsin 1969.
As you can see, even before being awarded the Heisman, Sully was a very talented athlete, who could run, throw and had excellent vision. An escape artist extraordinaire, those capabilities were not to be seen again on the field at Auburn, until the arrival of Cam Newton.
Jay…. There has never been anyone like Bo. He is without question, the most phenomenal athlete since Jim Thorpe. Nearly 30 years later, I still shake my head in disbelief over what he did on the field. The part about Bo that is lost on younger people, is what he did off the field. He shutdown and shut-up an Alabama program that was at an all-time high. He not only made Auburn relevant again, he set the stage for the program to dominate the state for the next quarter century. He made it cool to come to Auburn. And that continues today.
WEA… I admit I wasn’t much of a college football fan during my high school days growing up in Columbus, Georgia. And on the day I moved into my apartment at CDV Extention in September, 1985, I noticed people had painted “Go, Bo, Go” on their car and bedroom windows. I thought to myself, “Who’s Bo?” My introduction to college football couldn’t have been more exciting. I sat in Jordan-Hare for virtually every home game witnessing his exploits, and saw him on the road against Tech and Georgia single-handily dismantle their defenses. I was probably spoiled to have started my Auburn fan hood like that. My only regret is I only got one year of him.
Acid Reign…. It was still the relative TV dark ages when Bo played at Auburn, but a chunk of the college football world had broken away, thumbed their noses at the NCAA, and started selling television rights all over the place. Still, you were lucky to get 3 or 4 regular season Auburn games televised. I managed to attend most of the home games in 1983, and it was pretty special. While Bo was the star, that was a total team backfield also featuring Tommy Agee and Lionel James. To me, it was the best utilization of Bo’s talent.
I thought the 1985 offense was built for him to win the Heisman, but not necessarily for the team to win the league. It was great to see Bo win a very deserving trophy, but changes were afoot and the Auburn natives were restless at that point.
AubTigerman…. Bo Jackson still remains the greatest athlete to ever play in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Sports Illustrated named Bo the third greatest collegiate athlete in history behind Jackie Robinson (2) and Jim Brown(1). I can’t say I agree with any name being ranked above Bo, much less two names. And until Clark Kent enrolls at Auburn, Bo Jackson will probably remain the greatest athlete to ever wear orange and blue and quite possibly the greatest athlete to ever play college sports.
I remember his speed and power but one play really stands out in my memory and it wasn’t a running play. In his freshman year, Auburn was trailing (at that time) traditional rival Tennessee 17-14. Bo picked up a 1st down on (I think) 4th and 3 and then caught a leaping 45 yard pass from halfback Lionel ‘Little Train’ James to keep a drive going late in the game that would put the Tigers ahead of the Vols 21-17. Tennessee had soundly beaten Auburn the year before and their fans threw oranges at the Tigers when they left the field. After Auburn’s big upset, some Auburn fans returned the favor.
KoolBell – To complete this segment, I feel compelled to explain as best I can, just what Bo meant to Auburn. At a time when Auburn was being dominated by our cross state brethren, Auburn fans were becoming desperate to find a way to beat Alabama. Many fans had lost hope. Pat Dye knew this, and he told Bo as much. In a last ditch effort to bring Bo to Auburn Pat told Bo he would be the player that could restore hope to Auburn fans, and that Jackson could take Auburn to the mountain top, by beating Alabama. Boy, did Bo Jackson deliver.
In those days, Auburn was being owned by Alabama. The record number of consecutive loses to our toughest rival would be forged. That number would reach 9 in a row. Then, along came Bo.
Jackson was different, in so many ways. He was quiet, and respectful. When he put that helmet on, and ran out onto that field however, he was pure magic.
Bo Jackson struck a friendship with Pat Dye that continues to this day.
Ah yes, that effervescent smile, that charming glow, and that continual “swagger”. Call it what you like, but Cam Newton has all of that, and more.
Jay…. No person has ever dominated the game of football like Cam did in 2010. His 14 games will remain the most magical in Auburn history. He has changed the quarterback position forever. The boost he’s provided Auburn is similar to what Bo did years back. Just when Alabama was set to make another huge run, Auburn answered. They always have responded. Cam taking Auburn to the national championship is the unlikeliest event of my lifetime. Truthfully, I never believed I’d see it. For that reason alone, Cam will always be my favorite.
WEA….I’ll use the words that so many of our stupefied opponents always used describing Newton and his exploits: He was a freak. After the South Carolina game I was touting him for Heisman. I simply had never seen anything like him before. With passing and his ability to run, there’s no doubt in my mind he’s the greatest athlete to ever suit up at Auburn. I know he only had one year to basically Bo’s three, but he will be the benchmark for college quarterbacks for quite some time. With one and done at Auburn, his legend will only grow over the years.
Acid Reign…. I’ll have to confess about my early sentiments about Cam Newton. After the 2010 A-Day, I figured he was just another happy-feet “athletic” guy who took snaps. Occasionally makes big plays, but if you want to crank out first downs consistently, you need the little stick-figure, caretaker quarterback in there most of the time. Every week, I said to myself, “see, that’s a rookie throw.” After seeing the South Carolina game in person, I was finding it really difficult to find Cam’s mistakes, and his big plays were exploding. Even in his early Auburn days, he didn’t turn the ball over much, and the team kept winning.
I guess where I came around was the Arkansas game, where an SEC title contender just flat couldn’t stop him, either through the air or on the ground. I still figured LSU would slow him down, but after he ran over even a Jon Chavis D for 200 rushing yards, I was on the bandwagon! Funny how that goes.
A month later, when Cam was having a rough first half Iron Bowl, it was shocking. We had become accustomed to the spectacular out of him! We found out about Cam’s character that day. There was no pouting. No acting out. No yelling at teammates. Cam went to work with his coaches and found a way to get back in that game. For the payoff, I had the privilege of sitting in the Georgia Dome and watching Cam sail pass after big-league pass as the Tigers ran away to the SEC Title, and on to the BCS and a Heisman Trophy!
AubTigerman…. Having been blessed to watch parts of seven decades of Auburn football, I have to say Cam Newton is the best quarterback I’ve ever seen play the game. He had a presence whenever he walked out on the field that was noticeable even in warm ups. Great players are suppose to elevate the play of those around them, Cam did that; but he also elevated the entire stadium like no one I’ve ever seen. Quite simply, he was a star.
I am grateful I got to see him play live in nine of his 14 games at Auburn. I witnessed many spectacular plays but my greatest memory will always be, watching him from three rows from the end zone in Phoenix Stadium, as he (though obviously playing hurt) led the Tigers to their second National Championship. After watching Auburn come so close several times, it was a moment that I had wondered if I would ever see in my lifetime. Thanks in part to Cam, I can now die a happy man.
KoolBell….With all the tools necessary to perform his craft, Newton was fortunate enough to be in Auburn at the same time as Gene Chizik. For reasons that have nothing to do with talent, Chizik guided Newton through some of the most tumultuous times any college football player could endure. All the while Cam continued to amaze the college football world with his ability to scramble, his passing touch, his amazingly graceful runs, and undeniable quest to win.
Cam accomplished one thing that the other two football greats were not able to achieve, win a National Championship.
As thousands of Auburn fans gather this Saturday to pay tribute to these great athletes, we can’t help but wonder who the next Auburn great will be. Who will wear the Orange and Navy while leading our beloved Tigers to greatness. Is he already on campus?
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