By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - The list of people who have 1) carried Bo Jackson's Heisman Trophy, 2) covered both of Auburn's national championship teams, 3) knew of Shug Jordan's impending retirement and kept quiet, is short.
So short, in fact, it consists of only one name. Ed Jones.
One month shy of his 93rd birthday, Jones, a longtime photographer for The Birmingham News, attended Auburn's A-Day game, sharing stories of taking pictures on the Plains for more than six decades.
"It's been great," Jones said. "Auburn just grows on you."
Jones worked for The News from 1942 until his retirement in 1987. That's when David Housel, then Auburn's Sports Information Director, told Jones, "You may be retired from the Birmingham News, but you're not retired from Auburn."
So Jones kept coming and kept taking pictures.
"I still go, and I'm going to go as long as I can," he said.
Jones began shooting football games at Auburn in 1954 when the paper invested in a wirephoto transmitter, allowing pictures to be sent over phone lines.
"We could go anywhere," Jones said.
That was quite a technological upgrade from the way Jones sent rolls of film from Legion Field to The Birmingham News building downtown in the 1940s, via carrier pigeon.
"`We're going to start covering Auburn and Tuscaloosa, every game,'" Jones recalls his boss saying to Jones and fellow photog Robert Adams in '54. "`Which one of y'all wants to go where?'
"I said, `Auburn,' before Robert could say anything," Jones said.
A year earlier, Jones had taken a picture of Coach Shug Jordan and his wife, Evelyn, planting a pecan tree at their home, symbolic of their intention to plant roots at Auburn.
"It takes a pecan tree a long time to fruit," Jones said. "So, 25 years later, I made a picture of him and his wife, at the pecan tree. It was 50 feet, pecans everywhere."
So close was Jones with Coach Jordan that in 1974, the night before the Tigers played at Florida, Shug summoned Jones and a recently retired associate to the coach's hotel room.
Coach Jordan asked Jones' friend how he was enjoying retirement.
"He said, `Fine. Mary and I are enjoying every minute of it.' They talked a few more minutes. Shug says, `Well, that makes my mind up. I'm going to retire.' Of course, this was the year before he retired. He says, `Now, don't y'all say a word to anybody.'
"There I was, working for a newspaper. I knew he was going to retire next year. Couldn't say nothing about it."
A man of his word, Jones held in confidence Shug's secret.
"We came down here when Coach Jordan retired," Jones said. "I told the sports editor, `I knew about this a year ago but I couldn't tell you.' He said, `I'd have been disappointed in you if you had.'"
After Bo Jackson won the Heisman in 1985, he attended a celebration at his high school alma mater, McAdory, near Birmingham.
"After it was over, me and him were walking back to his car," Jones said. "I helped him carry his trophy.
"He said, `You know, Bear Bryant told me, if I went to Auburn I'd never play.' Well, you know what happened.
"They've had some good ones, but it's been hard to beat him as a running back. Of course, they've had some more who were pretty close."
Jones says one of Bo's teammates, fellow 1985 All-American Lewis Colbert was, "the guy with the most determination who ever played at Auburn."
Born with foot abnormalities, Colbert leads Auburn in career punts and punting yards.
"He had more determination than any two players down there put together," Jones said.
In 1954, Ed Jones chose to cover Auburn, not knowing that 63 years later he would still choose to spend his Saturdays at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I think my blood is blue instead of red," he said. "Auburn's been everything. If you ever go to Auburn, you're going to be Auburn."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer