Jan. 10, 2014
Within hours of Auburn’s gut-wrenching 34-31 loss to Florida State in the BCS Championship Game, running back Tre Mason and offensive tackle Greg Robinson had taken to Twitter to apologize to Auburn fans.
Mason had just run for 195 yards, including a remarkable 37-yard run that looked like it had won the game with 1:19 left. Along the way, he’d broken Bo Jackson’s single-season yardage record. Robinson had dominated Florida State’s defense as he dominated most others.
Mason and Robinson were two of the game’s very best at their positions, maybe the best. They didn’t talk about working hard and preparing and improving. They did it every day. Their teammates took notice and followed them all the way to within 13 seconds of a national championship.
Mason and Robinson didn’t start being dominant against Florida State. They were dominant against some of the better defenses in college football. Missouri couldn’t handle them. Alabama couldn’t either. Florida State couldn’t either. Those three teams combined for 38 wins.
On Tuesday, Robinson announced he would move on to the NFL. He is expected to be chosen in the top half of the first round. On Thursday, Mason said at a press conference that he would pass up his senior season and make himself available for the draft. He said he received a third-round grade from the NFL.
Auburn fans desperately hoped one or both would return. I would have liked to covered them both again, because they are not only great football players but first-class young men who do everything the right way.
Apologize? No way.
Thursday night at Auburn’s women’s basketball game, I sat beside Hall of Fame coach Joe Ciampi. In 1988, his team had an experience much like Monday night. In the NCAA Tournament championship game, then Lady Tigers, as they were then known, gave up a 14-point halftime lead and lost to Louisiana Tech. I asked him how long it took to get over it.
“You never get over it,” Ciampi said.
But Ciampi hastened to add that it doesn’t have to hold you back. It can drive you forward. His next two Auburn teams also reached the championship game.
What happened at the Rose Bowl is hardest for the seniors who gave so much to bring Auburn football back from the abyss. Their teammates get a chance to try to go back again. They don’t. But like Mason and Robinson, they should be proud. They set a standard of hard work, belief in each other and determination that will be remembered for decades to come.
When Gus Malzahn’s Auburn program goes to another national championship game – and it will – the seniors of 2013 will deserve credit for making it possible.
They showed the way.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: