Aug. 3, 2016
It was 1981, and a young coach named Pat Dye had just been hired at Auburn University. I didn't know what I was walking into when I strolled into the football offices and said out loud, "I'm here to walk on."
I was soon in the presence of Coach Dye's old-school assistant coach, Wayne Hall, who was watching film. He never looked up. He uttered a few words that suggested if I could survive one week, he'd give me shorts and shoes for practice. And if I survived another week, he'd give me a locker to put them in. And so begins another season and another opportunity for young men just like me to earn it. This afternoon, Coach Gus Malzahn and our team opened preseason camp. I wanted to share with you a few pictures from day one. For the next two weeks, until the start of fall classes on August 16th, our team will be immersed in practices, meetings and lifting weights.
There's a bond that is created during preseason camp unlike any other I've experienced. When you push yourself to what you perceive is the absolute limit. And then, with encouragement from your coaches and teammates, you go a little bit farther.
I believe so strongly in athletics because I'm fully convinced sports help prepare you for life. Sacrificing for the benefit of others, the importance of preparation, being accountable and coachable. Qualities that help you win ballgames. They also help you win in the work place, and in your family.
I love all sports, but because of my experience as an Auburn student-athlete, football is especially close to my heart. To be successful, it takes all 11 players carrying out their assignment on each play. If just one teammate falters, the play will not work as designed. Accountability means being there for my brothers to my right and my left.
On the offensive line, when we worked together, with five linemen functioning as one unit, the results were phenomenal. Our teamwork created within us the conviction that no defense could stop us. Having Bo Jackson running behind us didn't hurt, either!
From those muggy mornings and August afternoons of two-a-days - and even three-a-days back in the Dye era - I learned there's no shame in getting knocked down, as long as you get back up and play the next play. Overcoming adversity. Pressing on. Those are lessons that will serve our student-athletes well for a lifetime.
Two years after that first meeting with Coach Hall, I had the opportunity to start on our 1983 team, Auburn's first SEC championship since the famed 1957 team. We had great coaches. We had stars. We had role players. We were a family.
While watching practice this afternoon, my mind raced back to those days, still so fresh in my memory. I see the same look in the eyes of Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Alex Kozan. In the challenging days ahead, they will pay the price success requires. They will become a team. More than that, they will become a family.
I've always liked this proverb, of African origin. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
Let's go far, Auburn Family. Let's go together.
God bless and War Eagle,
You can also follow me on Twitter at @jayjacobsauad.