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Playing For The Auburn Family

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When Auburn quarterback Cam Newton takes the field tonight he'll be playing for the entire Auburn family.
When Auburn quarterback Cam Newton takes the field tonight he'll be playing for the entire Auburn family.

It's here.

The day most of us never believed we'd live long enough to see is upon us. In a few hours our Auburn Tigers play for the biggest prize in college sports. Thank goodness it's a bunch of 18-22 years-olds on that field tonight. Those of us with a few more years and a little more wisdom would surely buckle under the pressure.

More than anyone else, these Auburn men will be playing for themselves. These upper classmen have endured the lows of 2008, the uncertainty of a new coaching staff and been witness to one of the great turnarounds in NCAA history.

They'll also be playing for the thousands who came before them. Be glad these young men can't grasp the enormity of such a task.

They are playing for Shug Jordan and all his former players. One of the great qualities of Auburn and its people is perseverance. For more than a quarter century, Jordan stood up to Bear Bryant and refused to let him have the state to himself.

Through the indignities of playing home games in Birmingham and other locales, Jordan and his players refused to give up on the dream of football equality in the state. While we are talking about the game of football, these same struggles played out across the state in business and with family.

Jordan never quit. Auburn never quit.

Tonight this Auburn team will be playing for Jordan and his boys.

You think of people like Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson. Two of the greatest athletes to ever play the college game, both felt immense pressure to play in Tuscaloosa. Like the players on this year's roster, they too sensed something special about the Loveliest Village. Because of them, Auburn is what it is today.

Tonight this Auburn team will be playing for them.

You think of Pat Dye. Younger readers will never fully comprehend the impact he had on Auburn football. He stood eye-to-eye with Paul Bryant, Vince Dooley and Johnny Majors and refused to back down until he whipped them. When hired, Dye famously said, "We won't fear Alabama or anyone else." In the modern era, he pushed Auburn football back to the top.

Tonight this Auburn team will be playing for him.

You think of Tommy Tuberville. Many of Auburn's key performers this season were recruited by Tuberville and his staff. His fingerprints still remain on this team. He accomplished something few thought was possible, beating Alabama six in a row.

Tonight this Auburn team will be playing for him.

You think about the 1983, 1993 and 2004 teams. Because of circumstances beyond their control, they never got the chance to savor a moment like today. Men like Randy Campbell, Lionel James, Greg Carr, Stan White, James Bostic, Jason Campbell, Carnell Williams and Carlos Rogers. All came so close.

Tonight this Auburn team will be playing for them.

You think of all the former Auburn greats too numerous to name. People like Walter Gilbert, Travis Tidwell, Zeke Smith, Jimmy Sidle, Tucker Frederickson, Terry Beasley, Mike Kolen, Joe Cribbs, William Andrews, Donnie Humphrey, Ben Tamburello, Tracy Rocker, Ed King, Frank Sanders, Takeo Spikes, Karlos Dansby and Ronnie Brown.

We could go on all day.

Tonight this Auburn team will be playing for them.

You think of all the great alumni and fans. Stories of Auburn people who haven't missed a game in 40+ years. The diehards, who sat through the misery of the Doug Barfield era, endured the Terry Bowden debacle of 1998 and managed to still smile through Jetgate in 2003.

Tonight this Auburn team will be playing for them.

You think of people like Eric Fullerton. Asked to serve as a groomsman at a friend's wedding back in 1971, he quickly turned his buddy down. Furthermore, he told him he wouldn't be at the wedding. You see, Auburn was playing Georgia that day. Eric had to help the Tigers grab a win in Athens and solidify Sullivan's hold on the Heisman Trophy.

Some things are more important in life.

Eric's love for the University led him to name his first child, Auburn. A few days ago Eric passed away at the age of 64. To the very end, he followed every step of this incredible season.

Tonight this Auburn team will be playing for Eric.

I hope everyone who loves Auburn will stop for a minute today and think about how blessed we all are to be part of this moment. Whether you are in sunny Glendale or cold and icy Alabama, today is special. Win or lose, we'll never forget this moment.

War Eagle!