I won’t drag this out or make it melodramatic: Yes, technically, this is the last Undercover Barner. However, you can’t get rid of me that easily. I’ve got way too many opinions* to bow out just yet.
When we decided on an iMessage thread to create an Auburn blog one night in late 2011, to produce content that we wanted to read, to represent the Auburn Family (we hoped) with unbridled passion but measured reason**, I never imagined it would grow into the present-day CaM. This thing started as a small passion project among dear friends. We wanted to create a product that Auburn fans could be proud of. Now, even though the staff has grown and leadership has changed, our mission hasn’t changed. Old guard and new guard alike love sharing Auburn with you. So whether this is your first or five thousandth visit to the site, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading.
During that initial conversation a few years ago, the idea for this column was born. I’m pretty sure @HeismanGhost named it "Undercover Barner." I came into law school hoping to have a story to tell, but as much as I liked the name, it never really fit me. There is nothing undercover about my barning. I barn hard and I barn often. That’s a thing people know about me. And that’s what I’ve tried to do in this column. I wanted to share the joy and the heartbreak, the elation and the tears. Above all, I’ve always believed in Auburn and loved it. I’m not sure what’s next but you better believe that part won’t change.
Since we last spoke:
I will be the first to admit that I was absolutely shocked that Will Muschamp came back to Auburn. Not just because he and Jay Jacobs don’t have the coziest relationship but also because it doesn’t really help his resume, at least on paper. He’s been here. He’s done this. But if he’s successful, we’ll make a fine springboard for him. All I really care about is fielding a respectable defense again. I trust that Boom knows the way.
The unbearably sad death of Jakell Mitchell still lingers in Opelika. His birthday was January 1. He would’ve been 19.
I’m not totally sure what I expected from an Outback Bowl matchup with Wisconsin but I can’t say that I was all that surprised by the outcome. I hated the Wisconsin draw from the outset and this team’s record with "nothing to play for" was spotty at best. So that’s probably why my jaw didn’t hit the floor when Carlson’s kick hit the upright. I hated it, but it was also a fitting end to 2014. Wasted potential. Bad breaks. Sometimes things just don’t go your way. 2014 certainly didn’t go Auburn’s.
There’s always next year, right? That’s what I’ve been telling myself since the A&M game. But after the Outback Bowl, I got a text from my dad:
Those boys, no men, on defense fought for Auburn but they deserved a better coaching staff. There is no next year for these seniors, so when you see one on the street, cry, "War Eagle!" like you mean it from the heart. Auburn will build a defense from the bedrock of their broad shoulders.
Farewell, Reese, Sammie***, Nick, CAP, Corey, CJ, Robinson, Jermaine, and all of the seniors. The Auburn family loves you, and we thank you. You are Auburn Men.
That's what I would write if I had a soapbox to speak from.
Dad and I share a lot when it comes to sports. He taught me to love games played by gladiators and I have shoved an outrageous amount of sentiment down his throat because of it. In that text, our roles were briefly reversed. He said it better than me, so I lent him my soapbox.
Which brings me to the only thing I knew I wanted to write about this week: Nick Marshall.
Nick Marshall was never going to win a Heisman trophy. He was never going to win a Davey O’Brien Award. Hell, he might not even have as many passing yards as he had rushing in a game. But no matter what the world threw at him, the former DB kept his head down and called for another snap. If not for a comet named Cam Newton, Nick Marshall might’ve been the most electrifying quarterback to ever don orange and blue. His accuracy was questionable and he didn’t barrel through people, but if you gave him an inch, he took a mile. Nick Marshall was just plain fun to watch. And his feathers did not ruffle. He won’t be remembered for his prolific personality but rather his unmistakable shark eyes****. The most memorable play of the 2013 Iron Bowl would’ve never happened without Nick Marshall first tying the game. He noticed the Alabama linebacker biting and insisted on running the same play on the next down. Down seven with 20 or so seconds on the clock and ice in his veins, he drew defenders toward him and at the last possible second, he flipped the ball to Sammie. Tie ballgame. We all thought we were going to overtime. You know the rest of the story.
My best friend recently asked me to rank Marshall in my top 5 favorite Auburn quarterbacks. Ranking anything immediately stresses me out, but this one wasn’t actually that difficult. I didn’t really think about stats (though I guess the success of the team was relevant) and I only considered quarterbacks from the years since I became truly conscious of football.
1. Cameron Newton
2. Nick Marshall
3. Dameyune Craig
4. Jason Campbell
5. Brandon Cox
This list is 100% sentimental, but these are the quarterbacks who’ve given me the most feel-goods. Nick Marshall wasn’t perfect, but he was ours. And I will always be grateful for his time at Auburn.
I spent New Year’s Eve and Day in New Orleans with my friends—the same group that went to Baton Rouge. I cannot stress enough how much I love these people, and I can’t imagine life without them next year. Despite the football outcomes, the trip was quite lovely. Half of our group went to the Sugar Bowl and the other half consisted of my Bengal Tiger roommate and myself. Instead of subjecting ourselves to the Superdome, we enjoyed a fantastic dinner on the patio of Cochon, right across the street from a designated FSU bar*****. FSU scored what would end up being their last touchdown as we sat down, causing Laura and me to wonder why bad things had to happen to good people. But soon the Ducks put their Birkenstocks on Chief Whatever’s throat and our long national nightmare was over. And that wasn’t even the best part of our night.
Since everyone in our room lost his or her respective bowl games, we decided to watch HGTV that night. It was nice.
I’ve made my peace with 2014. It won’t haunt me like the 2013 national championship game, but good riddance all the same.
Thank you for sticking with me, for better or for worse. It’s been a privilege to share these three seasons with you, and I can’t wait for the next. I can’t wait to see Jeremy grow up. I can’t wait to see Roc and Jovon run wild. And I can’t wait to see defense on the Plains again. We comin’.
But for now, it’s time to close the book on 2014 and Undercover Barner. As legend Jim Fyffe said, "My time is up. I thank you for yours."
Until next time—War Eagle. Always.
*In related news, I’m taking suggestions for a new column name.
**Okay maybe not from ME, but everyone else has done a pretty good job.
***Dad wanted me to let you know that he is aware that Sammie is not a senior but we are losing him nonetheless.
*****Happy accident. The FSU bar had a projector set up outside on their patio so we got to see them slowly melt down. It was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever experienced.