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'My love for Auburn came through Auburn football' - Apple CEO Tim Cook
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn with Apple CEO Tim Cook at Thursday's practice.
April 7, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - Long before Apple’s Tim Cook became the CEO of the world’s largest publicly traded corporation, he listened to Auburn football games on radio as a boy in Robertsdale, Ala., near Mobile.

“My love for Auburn comes through Auburn football,” Cook told the Auburn football team Thursday.

That fondness began in 1971, when Cook was 11, with Heisman winner Pat Sullivan throwing to Terry Beasley. It intensified a year later, in Auburn’s 17-16 Iron Bowl win.

Ten years later, in 1982, Cook graduated from Auburn with an industrial engineering degree. He joined Apple in 1998 and became CEO in 2011.

In his 12-minute talk to the Tigers, Cook shared how Apple founder Steve Jobs returned and re-energized the company 20 years ago by focusing on four key principles.

Cook pointed out parallels between business and sports in the importance of collaboration, admitting when things aren’t working and changing course, a commitment to excellence, and not allowing distractions to divert one’s focus from the main priority.

“We care deeply about people,” Cook told the players. “Excellence has to be everyone.”

Cook said organizations and teams thrive when excellence becomes a habit, not just an occasional achievement.

Cook said Apple’s guiding principle - what he called “our north star” – is to make the world’s best products to enrich people’s lives.

“I would guess that your north star is to be the best football team, and come January 8th, to walk away with another championship,” Cook said.

Cook concluded his talk by reminding the players of their ability to influence and inspire young fans like his nephew, just as Auburn’s Amazin’s impacted him 45 years ago.

He then attended practice, speaking individually to players as they rotated between periods.



<em> Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway visits with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.</em>
Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway visits with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.

At the end of practice, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn invited Cook to lead the team in reciting its motto for the 2017 season, “It’s our time,” a phrase Cook used in a Twitter post recapping his time with the Tigers.

Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey says Cook’s counsel for corporate success applies in coaching.

“One of the things he mentioned was excellence,” Lindsey said. “Expecting excellence in everything they do at Apple.

“That goes to coaching, too. We’re on these guys about, ‘Hey, no false step,’ or, ‘Make sure that your hat placement is here or your hands are here,’ because we expect excellence out of those guys and you hold them to that standard. He tied that right into what we’ve been saying all spring.

“It was really good to hear his story, being an Auburn guy. A guy from Alabama who’s done what he’s done is really impressive. He was really fun to listen to.”

A Day

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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