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Tre Mason or Carnell Williams?

What if you had to choose between Tre Mason and Cadillac Williams? Who would you put at the front of Tiger Walk, or who would you hand the ball with the game on the line?

Kevin C. Cox

My brother recently sent me a text message that read simply, "Tre or Carnell?" I initially responded with a single word—Damn. Why would he ask me to make that choice? He knows the love I have for both players. He knows the respect I have for them; how they put their guts on the line for Auburn. Why would he ask me to pluck one heart string and leave the other silent? Nonetheless, out of the blue came his text—the kind of question we ask in the final weeks of pre-football summer: Tre Mason or Carnell Williams?

After the initial shock I asked him to clarify the question. Are we talking about the Tiger who is truest blue, or the one I would pick if I needed to win a game? Splitting up the question is a cop out. It lets us choose one player for the first question and the other for the second. So we won't do that. We'll answer this uncomfortable question with a single answer. But first, let's take a look at the two separate questions.

Matters of the Auburn Heart

My love for Carnell Williams is largely attributed to this: he chose Auburn twice. He chose Auburn over any other school in 2001, and he chose Auburn over the NFL in 2003. That latter choice gives him an edge over Tre Mason. I don't fault Mason for moving on when the whole country could see he was ready, but neither do I ignore Cadillac's staying another year to help Auburn win a national championship. 

Mason won me over by consistently giving everything he had on the field. Williams did the same, but Mason's effort is fresher in my memory. And all those shoulder-lowering broken tackles came to mind when he made his completely unnecessary apology to the Auburn Family for not winning the BCS championship game. Mason broke one too many tackles against the Seminoles, but we needed every single yard against Alabama, and Mason gave us 164.

"Winning Isn't Everything . . ."

Now let's approach the question with winning as the only thing. My first thought is that I want Tre Mason if I need to win a game, not so much because of his 2013, but rather his 2012. Which is the more impressive feat, rushing for 1,816 yards in Gus Malzahn's offense, or breaking 1000 yards (in two fewer games) in Scott Loeffler's?

Do we need to say anything about Cadillac's value for winning games? He was always ready to answer the call, whether in the spotlight, like when he scored six touchdowns against Mississippi State in 2003, or in the trenches, like when the Hoakies punched him in the gut at the bottom of every pile in the 2005 Sugar Bowl.


Photo by Cary Edmonson, USA Today

When your options are Tre Mason or Cadillac Williams, it's hard to go wrong.

Tre or Carnell?

Let's get down to answering the question, without qualification. If the question is strictly Tre or Carnell, I'm taking Cadillac. My reason is this—adaptability, meaning Williams' proven ability to succeed in a variety of systems. We mentioned above Mason's incredible accomplishment of rushing for 1000 yards in Scott Loeffler's offense. Cadillac, however, played for four different offensive coordinators—Mazzone, Petrino, Nallsminger and Borges. Whether asked to shoulder the load, share carries with Ronnie Brown, or play a versatile role in a balanced offense, Cadillac always rose to the task and helped his team win.

Thriving in four different offenses, coming back stronger after injuries and choosing to stay for 2004—all these things make up the Cadillac mythos. The stats and the heart strings work together to let me answer both questions with one answer. But it still isn't easy. The 2013 season will soon prove the prelude to something greater, but its own greatness cannot be denied, and it could not have been achieved without Tre Mason; not even close.

So that's my answer. What about you? Which of these Tigers do you love more? Which one would you choose for a must-win game, and/or how do you answer the single question—Tre or Carnell?