He was a scrappy red headed kid from Birmingham, Ala. who went on to become one of the greatest defensive players in the history of Auburn Football. Kurt Crain played ball for Pat Dye in the mid to late eighties - a time when Auburn dominated the SEC. As an All-American Linebacker, he had a knack for reading plays and making crushing tackles.
Like many other Auburn fans, Kurt was one of my favorite players from those great Pat Dye teams. It might surprise some to know that it was not Aundray Bruce but Kurt Crain that was the leading tackler on Auburn's 1987 SEC Championship Team.
Kurt had 168 tackles that year which is still No. 2 on the all-time list in school history. He had 8 games with 15 tackles or more and led Auburn in interceptions. The Auburn 'D' was ranked 10th in the nation in total defense and 5th in scoring defense. He also led the '86 team with 156 tackles which ranks 5th on the season record list.
His name is still on the top of the school records list for individual games with 19 solo stops and 26 total tackles in the 1986 Georgia game. Even though he only played two years at Auburn, he had 476 combined total tackles and total assists. His 152 total assists are ranked ninth on the school's all-time list.
In addition to being an AP All-American, he was also a two-time All-SEC selection and played in two bowls including the 1988 Sugar Bowl.
Pat Dye once described him, "as having a linebacker personality." And former Auburn assistant and present Troy Head Coach, Larry Blakeney said, "He was a heck of a force for us at Auburn."
Kurt was a great player who played along side other Auburn greats. In his senior year, he was the Team Captain of a team that saw 28 players wind up on NFL rosters.
The '87 linebacking core was one of the best in the nation and may have been one of the best groups in AU history with Crain, Edward Phillips, Quentin Riggins and Aundray Bruce. The wrecking crew accounted for a combined 460 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and 9 interceptions.
After two years in the pro's, Kurt got his start in coaching college football in the early to mid nineties at his alma mater. He had coached at several schools over the years including working with Pat Sullivan at TCU. In 2008 he was hired as the Associate Head Coach for the South Alabama Jaguars.
Under Coach Crain, South Alabama's defense was ranked in the top 20 in the country in the FCS for both pass defense and total yards allowed per game in 2011.
After a year of poor health, Kurt passed away yesterday in Mobile. He was 47. He will always be remembered as not only an Auburn Great but as a great coach and teacher of young men.
South Alabama Head Coach Joey Jones said "We've lost a great man... Kurt was one of the best overall coaches I've ever seen. He cared about the players, they respected him greatly, and he was a tremendous football coach and motivator."
Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said he was a "fierce competitor" and an incredible individual who I was blessed to be friends with for over 25 years."
"The entire Auburn family is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Kurt, who was a great man, husband, father, coach and friend" Jacobs said. "He loved the game of football as much as he loved Auburn."
And Auburn loved to watch him play. His greatness on the gridiron will forever be remembered on The Plains. I know I will never forget and on this Wednesday morning ...
Our hearts and prayers go out to his wife and family.