Jan. 22, 2011
Celebration Ceremony Editor's Note: When watching video, move timeline marker to the 1 hour mark to see the beginning.
By Jack Smith
Julia Turner had chill bumps during Auburn's National Championship Celebration on Saturday-- and they weren't from the brisk winter winds swirling around Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"The whole program was just awesome," said Turner, a sophomore at Auburn. "It really just showed what a strong family we have."
Auburn student Meighan Julbert said the excitement of the day and the electricity in the stadium was hard to describe.
"It was absolutely out of this world," Julbert said. "It was one of the best experiences of my life."
The hour-long celebration featured poignant remarks, rousing War Eagles, high-energy videos and the familiar sounds of the Auburn University Marching Band. Head Coach Gene Chizik's closing comments brought down the house.
"I will say it again," Chizik said. "It's not kinda....sorta.... almost. You are the best fans in the United States of America. War Damn Eagle!"
As he has throughout his two years at Auburn, Chizik praised the Auburn fans for doing their part.
"You have helped us and been a huge part of the best football team in the United States of America," Chizik said.
Past and present Auburn greats took part in the program. Lloyd Nix, quarterback of the 1957 National Championship team, carried the gleaming crystal ball that adorns the coveted BCS National Championship Trophy to BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock, who presented it to Chizik.
"Lloyd did not fumble the football," Hancock quipped.
Earlier in the program, Nix turned to the players seated on stage and told the team it was special "for many reasons."
"Our (team) had some of the same qualities," Nix said. "You are dedicated, you work hard, you are determined, you believe in the coaches and you believe in each other. And with a crowd like this, you have to believe in Auburn fans."
Nix told the players to remember they represent more than a football team.
"When you put that championship ring on, just remember what it means," Nix said. "Wear it with pride, wear it with class, and believe in Auburn."
Auburn University President Dr. Jay Gogue paid homage to the team--and to ancient history. Gogue pointed out that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon on January 10 in 49 B.C., a pivotal event that launched the Roman Empire.
"It was said when they crossed the Rubicon, the die was cast," Gogue said.
Gogue reflected on the championship season and had high praise for players on both sides of the ball.
"At every one of those games," Gogue said, "there were two great teams on the field--the Auburn offense and the Auburn defense."
Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs, who emceed the program, recognized players past and present.
"We couldn't be here today without our former players," Jacobs said. "We're standing on the shoulders of three undefeated teams (1957, 1993 and 2004)."
Jacobs praised former Auburn Coach Pat Dye, who came to Auburn 30 years ago this month.
"In 1981, Coach Pat Dye came to Auburn," Jacobs said, "and he taught the Auburn Family a spirit that is not afraid."
Jacobs also recognized staff members who make Auburn football tick, from Executive Associate AD Tim Jackson, to the video and equipment staffs, trainers and managers.
Former Athletics Director David Housel remarked that it had been 57 days since Auburn's historic comeback over Alabama, a win that kept the team's championship hopes alive.
"All our lives we tell our children and grandchildren.... never, never, never, never give up,'" Housel said. "Fifty-seven days ago, at a place called Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, near the banks of the great Warrior River, you reaffirmed that life lesson and emphasized it for years to come. Never, never, never give up."
Housel, the unofficial historian of all things Auburn, put the day into perspective.
"All of us want to be part of something bigger than we are," he said. "And for those of us here today, that something is Auburn."
Other former Auburn greats took part by presenting a historic haul of team and individual awards won in 2010. Former Auburn quarterbacks Stan White and Randy Campbell presented Cam Newton his Heisman Trophy. Former Outland and Lombardi winner Tracy Rocker presented Nick Fairley the Lombardi Award, while Chizik handed the Broyles Award to Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn.
Steve Wallace, Kendall Simmons and Chuck Hurston, three former Tigers who collectively won five Super Bowls, presented the hefty MacArthur Bowl National Championship Trophy to Assistant Head Coach Trooper Taylor. Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker was on hand to present the AP National Championship Trophy to Malzahn, while Housel presented the Grantland Rice Football Writers Trophy to Defensive Coordinator Ted Roof.
Newly elected Alabama Governor Robert Bentley also made his first major public appearance since his inauguration five days earlier.
"This is a proud moment for the State of Alabama and this great university," Bentley said. "As your new governor, I consider myself `all in.' War Eagle!