By Jeff Shearer
MONTGOMERY, Ala - Auburn legends, and coaches past and present, filled the stage at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel.
On one side of Auburn coach Gus Malzahn were Jason Campbell and Carlos Rogers, teammates on Auburn’s unbeaten 2004 SEC champs. To the other sat Takeo Spikes and Pat Dye.
They were some of the sports celebrities at Thursday’s 16th annual Jimmy Rane Charity Golf Tournament dinner.
Rane, president and CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc., is serving his second 7-year term on Auburn’s Board of Trustees.
Each spring, Rane enlists his friends in the sports community, many with Auburn ties, to support his event.
In 2001, the Jimmy Rane Foundation awarded its first scholarship.
Fifteen years later, the Foundation awarded 32 scholarships to the Class of 2016.
“That’s the most we’ve ever given in one single year,” Rane said.
In 16 years, the Rane Foundation has awarded 314 scholarships worth more than $2.5 million.
“The motivation was a little girl from Abbeville. I’d known her all my life,” Rane says. “All her life, she wanted to be a doctor. She never changed. From kindergarten, all the way through high school. She went off to school, and before I knew it, she had to leave because her daddy died.
“Nothing in the world broke my heart more. It was so wrong. I said, ‘This just isn’t right. We’ve got to do something. I don’t know what.’ Light a match, instead of curse the darkness. So that’s how we started,” he said.
“It’s sort of been my motivation ever since,” Rane said. “There’s so many kids just like her, every day, who somebody needs to pay attention to. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Campbell, after a decade in the NFL, was happy to help.
“Just to come out and support Jimmy Rane and everything he’s trying to do in the community, Campbell said. “Reaching out and giving kids scholarships. We all have a job to do. It’s not just about ourselves, but giving back to the community.
“The more we give back, the more our community continues to grow. Each generation that is behind us, is the next one to make our world better. Kudos to Jimmy Rane and kudos to everyone who’s around this golf tournament and charity event. It’s exciting. I’m glad to be here. It’s an honor and I look forward to coming back,” he said.
Jay Jacobs, Auburn’s Director of Athletics, is not surprised to see such a large Auburn contingent supporting the cause.
“Giving back is part of what makes Auburn special,” Jacobs said. “Jimmy has done an outstanding job over the years of creating a fun event that serves a greater purpose. It’s rewarding to see so many Auburn greats giving their time to bless these students.”
Two scholarship recipients from the Class of ’16, Brianna Culpepper from Dothan, and Rachael Deschaine from Headland, Ala., will attend Auburn in the fall.
The event began with a silent auction and dinner, followed the next day by a golf tournament pairing a sports legend with each foursome.
Peyton Manning, recently retired after winning Super Bowl 50, served as keynote speaker, sharing amusing stories from his life and career in a moderated question-and-answer session.
Former Auburn basketball coaches Sonny Smith and Cliff Ellis help emcee the event each year.
Coach Bruce Pearl, and Auburn basketball legend Rex Frederick, also attended.
Other formers Auburn football stars included Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Ben Leard and Steve Wallace. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele also attended.
“These people come because they believe in what we’re doing,” Rane said. “They feel good about it, too. I’m just on the team. I’m an old offensive lineman, so I know about team play. It’s a great team and everybody’s trying to make a difference. It’s wonderful to play with guys like this.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer