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Leaving a legacy: Seniors 'grateful' for time at Auburn
Senior safeties Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts (middle) break down Auburn's pre-game huddle prior to Monday's Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Photo: Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics
Jan. 2, 2018

By Greg Ostendorf
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. – There were a lot of hugs in the Auburn locker room after Monday’s game. Players hugging players. Coaches hugging players. And the focal point was on the 19 seniors, who just played their last game in the blue and orange.

It wasn’t the way they wanted to go out, losing to UCF in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, but that one game doesn't take away from what group has accomplished while at Auburn.

“It’s obviously not the way we wanted it to go, but I’m very grateful for my time here at Auburn,” senior kicker Daniel Carlson said. “I was giving hugs and hugging up on these seniors and guys we’ve been playing together with for years. I’m very grateful for what Auburn’s done in my life and what these guys have meant to me – the friendships we’ve been able to make, the relationships with the coaches, too – I couldn’t have ask for more.

“It’s been a great journey, and I’m just extremely grateful to be an Auburn Tiger.”

Outside of Carlson and Tyler Stovall, the bulk of the seniors arrived prior to the 2014 season. They have accumulated 32 wins over the last four seasons, and since 2015 – the year many of them saw the field for the first time – they have shown improvement every year. They went from six wins in 2015 to eight wins last year and finished with 10 wins this year.

Their careers at Auburn might have come to an end Monday, but their legacy will continue to impact for years to come.

“We had a lot of young guys that we’ve had to show how things go on around here,” senior safety Stephen Roberts said. “From that standpoint, I think they’re locked in. They’ve still time to prove since they’re still here, so I think they’re going to get better as the seasons go by.”

“The young guys are ready to compete,” added fellow senior defensive back Jason Smith. “They’re so hungry to get in the game and make plays – like Jordyn Peters, Daniel Thomas, guys like that. That’s going to be good down the line next year and years to come. I’m just glad I got an opportunity to play my role and help the team.”

Peters is a perfect example of a player who had to grow up quickly, playing significant minutes as a true freshman this season. He made plays in Auburn’s wins over Georgia and Alabama, and in Monday’s bowl game, he led the team with eight tackles.

But he credits seniors Roberts and Tray Matthews as the ones who helped prepare him.

“They’re great guys, great players, and I treat them as my big brothers,” Peters said. “They came out and they tell me the ins and outs of the game, and just learning from those guys and how much experience they have, it’s been great. Just seeing how they operate and do things. I’m definitely going to try and follow in their footsteps in the future.”

It’s the same with the senior-laden offensive line or linebacker Tre’ Williams or even Carlson, who helped pave the way for his brother, Anders Carlson.

“I think this senior class has just done an incredible job being role models to the younger guys and being leaders on and off the field,” Daniel Carlson said. “I think you can sense in this locker room it’s just a tight-knit group this year, and I think a lot of the credit is due to the senior leadership on that end.”

There will be a new group of seniors next year, a new set of leaders. But Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said it best after the game when he said this year’s seniors set the foundation for this program moving forward.

One game won’t diminish the impact they had and will continue to have on Auburn.

Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter:

 

 

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