Remember when the extent of your recruiting news came from some rinky-dink show called something like Gridiron Roundup on CSS? Mondays at 8! During the wonderful early 2000s, when the industry of recruiting hadn’t quite taken off yet, you’d get a rare snippet of some kid interested in your school on one of these shows, but they always seemed to talk about players that weren’t interested in Auburn. It was the Tuberville way — we’re not going to get the spoiled five-stars and coach ‘em up, we’re gonna get the two-stars that have the drive.
Every now and then Tubs nabbed a real gem like Cadillac. And then sometimes he nabbed someone with an even wilder nickname like The Little Ball of Hate.
If you thought Cadillac was a high school legend (which he was, but it was more local/regional), then you need to revisit what was said about Tray Blackmon.
The best high school player I ever saw.
It’s high praise, and his tape backed it up. The rumors that we heard about Tray Blackmon coming out of high school and into Auburn were nuts. There was an entire message board thread about his legs being so muscular and how veins were just popping out of them. One guy surmised that he needed to stretch every couple of hours because he was so ripped. And I believed that stuff! (I was just a kid at the time, sue me)
At LaGrange High School, he was a deity, finishing with 116 tackles, 16 TFLs, and 16 sacks as a senior. He was the top linebacker nationally, top player out of Georgia, and a top fifteen player overall as well. The 2004 season paid off in this regard on the recruiting trail.
So, it took a while for Tray to make an impact, and that impact would be fairly short-lived. After redshirting in 2005, he got suspended to start the 2006 season, and we thought we’d never see this ethereal talent hit the field.
Then, Auburn lost at home to Arkansas and Gus Malzahn and dropped from the #2 spot in the country. One week later, the new 2nd-ranked team came into town to tangle on Saturday night. Auburn played a classic Tuberville game, not scoring any offensive touchdowns, and beating the Florida Gators for what would turn out to be their only loss of the season.
There were many defensive stalwarts that night — Quentin Groves chief among them — but in the final period, the Gators were knocking on the door to take the lead.
Man, did that get some debate afterward. Auburn’s own version of the tuck rule, with the ruling going for the defense. Hey, it ended up working out for us, and Tray Blackmon somehow aggravated the Gator offense despite not really knowing where to line up. Perhaps it was the absence of conventional football knowledge that stymied Urban Meyer’s offense.
Either way, that was about the highlight of Blackmon’s career on the Plains. He played in nine games in 2007, with an interception against Kansas State and 7 tackles against Alabama, but his time was cut short in 2008. He broke a bone in his hand, but that didn’t matter. He was dismissed from the team after an up-and-down road under Tubs.
What could have been...