It's not every season that you play two bulldogs in consecutive weeks.
It's not every season that you actually have to worry about the smaller of the two bulldogs.
It's not every season that you actually have to worry about the smaller of the two bulldogs on Senior Day.
Yet here we are.
I was a Samford student for a semester. Did y'all know that? Night classes. 2011. Paralegal. That was a dark period in my life. No, really. It was always dark, because I took night classes. Duh.
I can show you my student ID if you want. My photo ain't too shabby. I had way better hair then.
Really, though. Can you say anything negative about Samford? Sweet little innocent Samford? Perhaps the only thing that comes close is what my father told me when I started looking at colleges during high school:
"Son, I'll support you wherever you end up, but don't go to Samford. In fact, you're not allowed to go to Samford, because that's basically an extension of high school, and you need to move at least an hour away."
Er...something like that.
Made sense. I grew up around Vestavia and Homewood, so I guess dear ol' Dad didn't want to run into me buying groceries every other Saturday. I mean, let's be real--I wouldn't want my son going to college down the street from my house, either.
But really. There's not much you can say about Samford. It's not like they've ever really done anything to Auburn to make me upset--unless you claim stealing Kodi Burns from us.
Pat Sullivan is the coach over there. I met him at the gas station in Vestavia next to the McDonald's on Montgomery Highway, across from what used to be the Parisan's over there by Stein Mart and all those shops. My dad took me to Wald Park to throw the football or something when I was a little kid, and we went to get a slushy. There was Pat Sullivan, doing Lord knows what--probably buying a pack of Copenhagen. Anyway, my dad told me who he was after I shook his hand (claaassssic dad move).
Nah, there's almost nothing I can say about Samford--even in sarcastic jest--to do my job well this week. I have a deep history with Samford's campus. Seems like I spent a lot of time there for summer-related activities for some reason. I saw Nickel Creek for the first time at their auditorium with my cousins and my aunt, went to a couple of weddings there, took swimming there for waaayyyy longer than any kid past 12 years old should, went to Coach Tillette's basketball camp a bunch of times...
So instead of bashing a school that a) really isn't too much of a threat this Saturday (gah, WHERE IS SOME WOOD TO KNOCK ON?) and b) has generally been pretty good to me, I thought I'd tone things back a little this week and save some of my Barnin' rage for the real opponent next week (oh, Nicky...you just wait...). It's time to recognize our seniors, and I have five in mind:
5. Corey Grant - aka O-Town Killa
Corey, how you glide over the grass like a water beetle on a smooth-as-glass pond in the morning light--A WATER BEETLE ON STEROIDS WHO LOVES TO HIT PEOPLE AND OH MY GOSH WHY IS THAT WATER BEETLE BIGGER THAN US AND CARRYING A FOOTBALL AND SPEAKING IN TONGUES HOW TERRIFYING. I've always said that you're like Onterio McCalebb, except you just want to fight everyone who tries to tackle you near the sideline. You've also got the chops to run up the middle and between the tackles and smack the defense around like a rag doll. You're also the fastest freak alive, and I wish I could've watched you run that unofficial 40 that got a bunch of attention. You know, when you broke the space-time continuum and stuff. There's an NFL team out there who'll put you to work, and you'll locate the Bammers on opposing teams and run straight at them to knock them into early retirement. War Eagle.
4. Cameron Artis Payne - HIS ART IS PAIN
Cammy Cam wwwwhhhoooops nope.
You are just straight up Cameron Artis-Payne.
And there's something about you that I can't quite explain.
Mainly, that you inflict pain.
And I like that.
You might be one of the most underrated players in our offense. Every week, you bust your tail to run that pigskin all over opposing defenses. You're fast, strong, and just plain mean--and all three look good on you. If you don't end up in the NFL (Which would be, like, crazy, right? Like, #breaktheInternet crazy, right? RIGHT?), I'd like to hire you to follow me around...maybe go to the grocery store with me. Any errands to stores that have aisles, really. Just knock down everyone in the juice aisle and we'll be just fine, bro. 10 items or less lane? PFFT. You're an absolute workhorse, you've racked up 1000 yards this season, and we lead the SEC in rushing because of your efforts. You'll be missed. War Eagle.
3. Reese Dismukes - The Bearded One
Reese, you won't remember this, but I met you when you were a recruit. I think. It was my junior year--that was another crazy time in my life--probably for both of us. No further details necessary. It was downtown. It was late at night. I think Charles Barkley was there.
Reese, you've matured, dude. You went through a complete transformation right before our eyes, and despite a few mistakes here and there, you have led this team on that offensive line just as much as anybody else in this senior class at any other position. Last year's amazing run? You carried that on your shoulders proudly. You were a vocal presence on the field and in the locker room, and you have truly been the bearded skipper on this bruisin' cruise ship. Hope you continue to do big things in the future. War Eagle.
2. Gabe Wright - The Rhino
I used to see you in the Haley Center hallways a lot. One time, you were walking behind me into Haley Center, and without thinking, I held the door for you without knowing who was behind me. I genuinely went weak in the knees. You are a BEAST of a man-child, Gabriel, and I've also never seen such an Amish beard on such a non-Amish guy. Your excitement for the game has truly been something to behold over the last few years, and it's going to be tough to replace you. From day one--Signing Day--when you sat next to Isaiah Crowell and that ugly puppy #dwag he pulled out, as you wore a hat that said "Nick Who?", I knew we'd found our guy. You wore 90 proudly, and you have easily been one of my favorite Auburn players over the years--perhaps even in my top 20--purely because of the way you get so incredibly psyched to play football. You're a beast, you're the man, and you deserve nothing but the best. War Eagle.
1. Quan Bray / Nick Marshall - (INSERT PUN HERE) / ICE IN THE VEINS, BABY
Have a day, Quan Bray. I feel like you've been on our team for, like, 10 years. You've gone through some rough times--and what player hasn't--but you've fought through them, and you've delivered for this team in ways only you could draw up. From punt returns to big-time catches, you can pretty much do it all. With all of the big name receivers we've brought in over the last few seasons, you've remained a constant reminder to us that you're still full of surprises. Any NFL team would be foolish not to give you a chance, but wherever you end up, we know you'll make your momma proud, and we'll keep coming up with a thousand different ways to turn your name into a pun. War Eagle.
Nick. Nick Marshall. You are the captain of this ship, for better and for worse. Despite all of the challenges you've gone through in the last two seasons, you have remained chill. The ice in your veins could reverse global warming. Seriously, I've never seen a player who is so cool and calm and collected when the entire universe is a crazy chatterbox of rumors, trash talk, and hate. You studied the playbook, you made things happen, and you did it whole-heartedly for this team. You made some mistakes as well, but you owned them. You asked us to believe in you, and you showed us what you were capable of on the field. Aside from The Blessed One, you might be the most dynamic quarterback we've seen in years, and wherever you end up--whatever role an NFL team might have for you--keep brushing off the haters. Ice in the veins, baby. Ice. In. The. Veins. War Eagle.
Boys, you've got two more regular season games left. Enjoy the first one. Make it fun again. This is your day--remind us why we fell in love again with our Tigers in 2013 after a dismal season the year before. Help us forget the last two weeks, will ya?
Make a statement in the second one. Leave everything on the field. No prisoners, no tomorrow, no excuses. But hey, we'll get there. Focus on Samford.
The point is, you still have plenty left to give, and we will be cheering you on until that final whistle blows. Seniors, let's finish this thing, starting with Saturday. War Damn Eagle.