March 25, 2013
by Lauren Haines
No matter how far from The Plains you roam, Auburn will always be a place you call home. There is a spirit, an intensity, a sense of belonging that is unmatched by even the most familiar of places. Whether it is the sound of the marching band or the smell of tailgating, sooner or later you find yourself back in the arms of a town that shaped and defined many Auburn Men and Women.
And so is the case for new assistant football coaches Rodney Garner and Dameyune Craig, who both return home to a place where they once graced the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Garner, an All-SEC offensive lineman for Auburn in the late 1980s, is back to serve as the associate head coach and defensive line coach under Gus Malzahn.
Garner owns an impressive history both on and off the field. Not only is he the proud father of six daughters, Garner served as recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach and an assistant strength and conditioning coach for Auburn from 1990-95. With a brief stint at Tennessee for the 1996-97 seasons, Garner joined the University of Georgia football staff in 1998 as a defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator
where he remained until December.
"The time was right for me to come home," Garner said. "I don't know if I have the words to say what it means to be back. It's a sense of family, a sense of home, and I am proud and honored to be a part of helping Auburn in a time of need."
A similar story can be told for Craig, who along with Garner, had previous opportunities to come back to work on The Plains.
As Auburn's starting quarterback from 1996-97, Craig led the Tigers to 18 wins in two seasons including bowl victories over Army and Clemson. Wearing No. 16, Craig passed for more than 1,600 yards and threw for 39 touchdowns. After three years with the Carolina Panthers and stints coaching at LSU, Tuskegee and Florida State, Craig is back to serve as co-offensive coordinator and wide receiver coach.
"Coming to Auburn the first time was a dream come true," Craig said. "I think Gus (Malzahn) is a great leader and I really feel that he is taking the program in the right direction, and I knew it was something that I had to be a part of."
Out of all of the games played and coached, Garner and Craig both recall playing in the Iron Bowl as one of their fondest memories in their football careers.
"The '89 Iron Bowl was the most electric atmosphere that I have ever been a part of,"
Garner said. "There is so much riding on that game regardless of how the rest of the season has gone," Craig said. "Playing in the SEC you are up against great competition, but the Iron Bowl was one of the most exciting games I have ever been a part of."
There is no better way to keep the Auburn Family tradition alive than by bringing back two men who experienced it first-hand.
"(Coach Pat) Dye instilled love and pride into the team when I was here before," Garner said. "It meant something to be an Auburn Man and I am ready to instill that into these young men."
Both men have made their allegiance to the Auburn Family clear, and are eager to start working with the staff and student-athletes.
"At the end of the day," Craig said, "Kids growing and succeeding is what matters the most."
There is no doubt that both coaches have their priorities in line and are fully equipped with what it takes to add to the growth and success of the football program.
"Auburn football is everything," Garner said. "What's not to love?"