The 24 year old law student was shivering standing behind the police barricades on a chilly New York night. She had been there for over an hour (wearing her number two Auburn Jersey) holding up her IPod and blasting the Auburn fight song.
Mary Kathryn Papaioannou was waiting along with hundreds of other members of the Auburn Family to give Cam Newton a good old fashion Tiger Walk welcome; as he would make his way two blocks from the New York Marriott Marquis to the Broadway theater where the Heisman Trophy ceremony would take place.
The crowd held signs of support, did cheers, waved orange and blue shakers, and chanted "It's Great To Be An Auburn Tiger." When the moment came that Cam Newton appeared, the decibel level rose from the estimated 1,000 Auburn faithful to an almost deafening sound.
After Cam entered the theater, the crowd went crazy once again when Coach Chizik came out of the building to greet the faithful. Auburn Club President Micah Latter remarking about Cam Newton's prescence at the Heisman ceremony said that the New York Auburn Club would "have it no other way than to (hold) a spirited Tiger Walk in the middle of Times Square."
Latter said in an email to Track 'Em Tigers' KoolBell last night,
"I was at the Heisman dinner and heard Bo Jackson, Coach Chizik, Jay Jacobs and Cam all expressing their appreciation for the Auburn Family. I truly feel other schools can not comprehend that concept. Auburn is unique and family is family no matter how far you live. Cam was simply a family member in town, so we gathered for a warm greeting of encouragement and support."
Papaioannou, also a member of the New York Club was one of the organizers of the event. The group had less than a week to put the show on. And from all accounts it was a rousing success. It sure made an impression on Newton. "I had heard there might be a Tiger Walk. But a Tiger Walk of this magnitude put joy in my heart. That showed the Auburn Family is something special and I'm proud to be a part of ‘The Family'."
That bond and that spirit are shared by Auburn people everywhere. It is the basis of what makes Auburn University so unique. It is a special quality that feeds the Auburn Family with courage, vitality, and an unflagging loyalty. Family gives Auburn people strength to face adversity in times of crisis and brings out a desire to celebrate together in times of triumph.
People who are not a part of the Auburn Family can not grasp the depth or the magnitude of what holds us together. There is no Auburn Nation as with other schools, there is only the ‘Auburn Family'. And it is probably best illustrated by that oft used quote, "From the outside looking in you can never understand it. From the inside looking out you can never explain it." Trite as that maxim may sound to the outsider; it is a truism that defines ‘Auburn Family'."
Auburn men and women have a deep and abiding love for Auburn University. It is a love that transcends both academics and sports. It is a love that is carried on by Auburn people miles away from the Loveliest Village on the Plains. And it is carried on in far away places by Auburn Clubs that exists to support Auburn and to foster the Auburn spirit in every way.
As an Auburn Man I was filled with pride and emotion as I watched the video of the Heisman Tiger Walk. I'm not ashamed to say that tears welled up in my eyes when I viewed a thousand Auburn Family members, brave the chilly air of a December night in Times Square, to show support for one of their own.
Thank you New York Auburn Club for representing all of us there, thank you for bringing a little bit of Auburn to Broadway, and thank you for giving support to the Tigers' third Heisman Trophy winner. Your actions not only put joy in Cam's heart but also in the hearts of Auburn people everywhere.