(AU logo sports prints - watercolor artist: Russell)
Eighteen year old Gabriel Jordan entered Auburn University in the fall of 1998. Now 14 years later he's almost through with his Auburn degree. He had some interruptions along the way; like marriage, the birth of his two children, and oh yeah - a seven year career in the major leagues.
Jordan is not Gabriel's last name though; it's his middle name. It was given to him by his father Lee Gross in honor of Auburn's legendary Coach Shug Jordan. His dad was an All-SEC center for Coach Jordan in the early seventies.
Being the son of Auburn alums, "Gabe" Jordan Gross grew up an Auburn fan with dreams of wearing the Orange and Blue. Along the way, you could say he is one kid that was fortunate enough to live out his childhood dreams of being an Auburn Tiger.
He was a starter as a freshman on both the Baseball and Tiger Football Teams. Gabe started at quarterback for the Tigers in 1998 but after the third game of the 1999 season, he decided to concentrate on just one sport ... he chose baseball.
And he went on to become one of the greatest players in the history of Auburn Baseball. In 2001 he started all 58 of Auburn's games, led the team in hitting with a .327 batting average, 15 home runs, 19 doubles, with a .567 slugging percentage, a .469 on-base percentage and was chosen a consensus All-American.
I remember watching him play at Hitchcock Field, often making spectacular defensive plays in the outfield. Gabe played the game with an enthusiasm that was infectious to all who watched him.
He had such a great year in 2001 that the Toronto Blue Jays made him their first round pick (15th overall) in the Major League Draft.
Gabe went onto play ten years of pro ball. He retired at the end of last season and enrolled at Auburn to finish that degree. Auburn fans have seen him this spring back at Plainsman Park serving as a Student Assistant Coach for John Pawlowski.
Yes Gabe Jordan Gross has had most of his childhood dreams come true. Dreams like playing quarterback for Auburn, being an All-American in baseball, a first round draft pick, hitting his first MLB homerun in the house that Ruth built, and playing in the 2008 World Series.
Yet there still remains one dream that has eluded him. Now within just one more semester, he will finally have the one honor he's wanted most since he was a child ... an Auburn Degree.