April 14, 2012
The Auburn Family honored three of its all-time greats in a stirring ceremony under sunny skies on the east side of Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.
A crowd of thousands roared as former Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton took the stage moments before towering statues immortalizing the Auburn greats from three different eras were unveiled.
Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs set the tone for what was a special day.
"To the Auburn Family," Jacobs said, "welcome home."
Jacobs called Sullivan, Jackson and Newton "three of the finest men to ever wear an Auburn uniform."
"Even though we are recognizing these three individuals, they would be the first to tell you that they could not have made the accomplishments they made athletically withouttheir teammates and coaches," Jacobs said.
Jacobs also paid tribute to Coach John Heisman, the former Auburn coach for whom college football's most distinguished award is named.
"We would not be here today without Coach Heisman," Jacobs said. "Auburn is the only place where Coach Heisman coached and we have someone named for his award. Matter of fact, wehave three of them. So it is only fitting we honor Coach Heisman by dedication of the bust of Coach John Heisman."
Auburn President Jay Gogue expressed his thanks to Sullivan, Jackson and Newton not only for what they've done in the past--but for what they have done to inspire the future.
"Think about the young kids that will come to this campus and see those beautiful statues and think what could be," Gogue said.
Head Football Coach Gene Chizik called the event "a great day for the Auburn Family."
"They are all the same," Chizik said of Auburn's Heisman winners. "They are great, great individuals who had a huge, huge impact at Auburn University."
Sullivan, the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner, took to the stage first. Sullivan inspired the crowd when heinvoked the memory of two men who couldn't be present at the event--Coach Shug Jordan and his father.
"I know I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them," Sullivan said. "I know they are looking down, and I know they are proud."
Sullivan shared the credit for his Heisman and other individual awards he received.
"I know that I didn't win it by myself," Sullivan said.
The former Auburn quarterback and current head coach at Samford University reminisced about watching the 1971 Heisman Trophy announcement at halftime of the Georgia-Georgia Tech game on television at Memorial Coliseum.
Sullivan said three choices defined his life--his faith, his decision to attend Auburn and his decision to marry his wife, Jean. All three of those choices came into play when he wasdiagnosed with cancer nine years ago, a battle he said he could not have won without his faith, the support of his wife and former teammates and even former rivals who showed their support throughout the fight of his life.
"I know I wouldn't be here today without all of those things," Sullivan said.
While Sullivan said he was grateful for the awards and for the new statue that bears his name, he counts his relationship with former teammates among his greatest blessings.
"It's not these statues," Sullivan said. "It's not the awards. Sure they are a part of it. But what you get out of athletics when it's all said it's done, it's the relationships that last for a lifetime."
Jackson spoke to the crowd the way Coach Pat Dye taught him to--from the heart.
"I don't write speeches," Jackson said. "I learned something from a great man that I met over 30 years ago. You just speak from your heart, and that's what I do."
Jackson talked about how he grew and matured during his four years at Auburn, when he played three sports and rewrote the record books.
"When I came here in 1982, I was a young, immature kid," Jackson said. "Four years later, I left here a respectable young man. I didn't do that on my own."
Jackson talked about his teammates and got emotional remembering the impact of his roommate, former running back Tommy Agee, who could not be at Saturday's ceremony due to the death of his mother.
"If I wasn't here right now," Jackson said, "I'd be with my roommate."
Jackson talked about his former teammates and coaches, Sewell Hall dorm counselors Rusty and Sallie Dean, former trainer Herb Waldrup and his wife, Jean, and longtime Auburn recruiting coordinator Sue Locklar.
"We didn't get where we are by ourselves," Jackson said.
Jackson said his proudest moment as an Auburn Tiger came shortly after Auburn's historic 1982 Iron Bowl win over Alabama, when his iconic goal-line dive ended a nine year drought against the Crimson Tide. It came when he found his mother in the crowd after the game at Legion Field.
"Hugging my mother and listening to the fans thank her for allowing me to come to Auburn was probably my most memorable moment at Auburn," Jackson said.
Jackson told the crowd to remember what makes Auburn special.
"When you put on that t-shirt or sweatshirt that says `Auburn Family, All In," wear it with pride," he said. "We are all family here."
Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner who led Auburn to its first national championship in a half century, called it an "incredible honor" to be on stage with Sullivan and Jackson. Reading remarks from his I-pad, Newton thanked his former coaches,teammates and the Auburn family.
"It is always great to be home at Auburn," Newton said.
Newton said "it seems like yesterday" he and his teammates were celebrating the 2010 BCS National Championship at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I never would have imagined I would be standing here a year later with my family, the Auburn Family," Newton said.
The current Carolina Panthers quarterback said he sees more than his own likeness when he looks at the towering statue of #2 on the east side of the stadium.
"In my eyes, it is not a statue of Cam Newton," he said. "Instead, it is a statue of the 2010 BCS National Champions. It was a collective effort of an entire team. My Heisman Trophy certainly would not have been possible without my teammates, coaches and support personnel."
The crowd roared when Newton said playing for Auburn was one of the greatest honors of his life.
"I will forever be an Auburn Tiger," Newton said.
Jacobs said that while Saturday was a special day to honor three of Auburn's greatest, he promised it wouldn't be the last.
"As you can tell by the way we have these statues laid out," Jacobs said, "we have room to grow."