***Barner’s Note*** Last week, I was contacted by Mr. Kenny Austin about putting together a surprise piece for his son, College and Magnolia editor Walt Austin, on the eve of his relocation. Though we’ve only exchanged a few emails, it’s plainly obvious how much he loves his sons and how proud he is of Walt and all he’s doing here. So that idea became what you’ll read below. Thank you, Mr. Austin, for letting us borrow Walt and for telling your story here. War Eagle, Austin family!
People have often wondered, How is a Tiger born where there is no Tiger legacy? For Walt and his older brother, Cliff, the story began in 1958, when my family moved from Dothan, Alabama, to LaGrange, Georgia.
That year, LaGrange High School Football team won the Georgia Class AAA State Championship. On that team was a running back named Jimmy Burson, who went on to play football for Auburn University. This small connection was my introduction to college athletics.
After spending time in LaGrange and Auburn, Burson finished his amateur career and went on to play in the NFL for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Falcons. I followed his career, and I was privileged to attend a few Falcon games when he played. The family that invited me also cheered for Auburn, and I distinctly remember the dad always saying, “Come on, Jimmy. Show them how Shug taught you to play!” From that moment, the fire was lit and I was the original AUstin Tiger!
Financial considerations kept me from attending Auburn, and I graduated from Georgia Southern College in 1974. But as many fans who seek their education at other institutions [the Undercover Barner included!] often do, I remained a loyal Auburn fan, celebrating every victory, bemoaning every loss! I went on to marry Jennifer Jarrell in 1976, and our first son, Cliff, was born in 1979. Walt, the editor here at College and Magnolia, was born in 1982. In their early years, they saw me wear my favorite Auburn shirts, and kindling was added to the fire. We brought two new AUstin Tigers into the world.
As Walt has mentioned in a few of his articles, their early football days were dominated with trips to Statesboro, Georgia, to see my Georgia Southern Eagles play. This was unbelievable father/son time for me, as these two young boys would talk football the entire trip. With each trip home from Statesboro, if Auburn was playing a night game, they would eagerly await the moment we could hear the voice of Jim Fyffe calling the Auburn games! Sometimes we were lucky enough to make it to Auburn to see the Tigers! Those trips were the icing on the cake. I’ll never forget going to Tiger Walk, standing together by the stadium awaiting the Auburn University Marching Band’s percussion section when they performed, being in the stadium when the band made their march around the field, anxiously awaiting the flight of Tiger and, of course, that moment when we stood as one for the entrance of the Auburn Football Team onto the playing field!
As these two boys grew into young men, their loyalty to Georgia Southern was as strong as ever, but we knew there was only one place for their education. They were going to be Auburn men! Cliff graduated in 2002 and Walt in 2004. On the day of Walt’s graduation, he was also commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. These two young men, from a dad’s very biased opinion, embody The Auburn Creed:
I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.
I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.
I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.
I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.
I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.
I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.
I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.
And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.
So, what is this all about? As I was writing this piece, Walt and our lovely new daughter-in-law, Karie, were making the journey to their new home in San Antonio, Texas. Big brother, Cliff, was with them as a driver of one of the vehicles. No matter how far away they settle, they are brothers and they are Auburn men!
For the readers of CollegeAndMagnolia.com, this dad wanted to pay a special tribute to Walt. I have been amazed at the effort he has put into learning about and writing about all things Auburn. He has this unbelievable passion for Auburn University!
So that’s the story. As a young first grader listened to a state championship football game in 1958, an AUstin Tiger was born, and that’s how you’re reading this blog today!