I grew up in Texas as a Baylor fan back when that didn’t mean Big 12 championships and Art Briles. I vividly remember asking my dad (a double Baylor graduate—undergrad and law) why we kept coming to watch this team lose every Saturday. I remember sitting in the cheap concrete end zone seats of the old Floyd-Casey Stadium with my buddies and playing tag or whatever because the game on the field was so boring and the stadium was so empty.
My years of Baylor fandom can be summed up in one moment from 1999. I was standing in my family’s seats somewhere on the 45-yard-line as Baylor lined up at around the 6 with a three point lead on UNLV. This was Kevin Steele’s first year as head coach and he was out to prove Baylor was a team with attitude. The Bears could take a knee and win the game after clawing their way back into the lead. Instead, Steele called a run up the middle to try to get another touchdown. As time expired, the running back fumbled the ball and it was recovered and returned 100 yards for a touchdown by UNLV. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.
14-year-old me had seen enough.
In the fall of 2001, my brother went to Auburn as a freshman. He chose Auburn because it had a building science program and wasn’t Texas A&M. The first couple of times I went to visit him in Auburn, the Tigers won and it was like being on another planet from the games I went to in Waco as a kid. This wasn’t tedious or heart-wrenching or boring football. Auburn was an exciting team with young stars who could beat the doors off of people.
In November 2003, I was a senior in high school and had been accepted by both Auburn and Baylor. My dad was lobbying for the Bears and my brother was hyping the Tigers.
I went to visit Auburn just before Thanksgiving because school was out and the Iron Bowl was in town. My brother had gotten me a student ticket and I stood with him in the fraternity block seats as the game started. The eagle flew. The band was rocking. Auburn had the ball first and an offense with so much potential came on the field. A simple run play up the middle was called.
17-year-old me had seen enough.
I freebased Auburn Football in that moment. Sheer excitement and happiness flowed through my veins and I went home an Auburn fan, but not until after seeing 17th Floor play at the Fiji house.
My freshman year was 2004. I didn’t see a losing season as an Auburn fan until 2008 and never lost to Alabama as a student.
From the 2003 season until now, Auburn has averaged almost 9 wins a year, but has had some of the lowest moments in program history to go along with the highest.
In January 2011 when the confetti fell in Glendale as Cam Newton hoisted a crystal football, or in November 2013 when I fell to the floor of a bar in Denver as Ricardo Louis caught a tipped pass for a game-winning touchdown, I was experiencing the euphoria and unbridled enthusiasm that can only come from fandom and neither of those experiences would have been possible without Cadillac going 80 yards against the Tide in 2003.
Why am I an Auburn Fan? Because of Carnell Williams. Because of the 2003 Iron Bowl and the 2004 Tennessee game and the 2005 Georgia game and the 2006 Florida game and the 2007 Florida game and the 2008 “Baby I’m Burning” game and the 2009 Outback Bowl vs. Northwestern and the 2010 South Carolina game(s) and the 2011 South Carolina game and the 2012 firing of Chizik and the 2013 Kick Six and the 2014 LSU game and the 2015 Texas A&M game and the 2016 Arkansas game. Those are my favorite games from each season for one reason or another, and each of them are part of the story of my Auburn fandom.
And It all started with one run up the middle.