April 22, 2014
Gus Malzahn's autograph was a hot ticket at the Shoals Area Auburn Club
By Charles Goldberg
FLORENCE, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn received just about as loud of reception as the ceiling would allow, and about as loud as you'd expect for the national college coach of the year playing in front of the home fans.
"OK if I give one back?" he asked.
And with that, the Auburn coach who found himself coining that phrase last season kicked off the annual Tiger Trek alumni/fan gathering/family-get-together at the Shoals Area Auburn Club on Tuesday night. Talk about playing to the crowd, some 500 people heard about Malzahn's desire to go even faster than his fast-paced offense went last season. They heard about his appreciation of last year's team, and of how he's demanding the Tigers to be 13 seconds better than last year.
Those 13 seconds was the difference between winning and losing last season's BCS title game. A bracelet with the Roman numeral XIII reminds them.
"We have to be 13 seconds better in everything we do," he said.
Of course, 13 seconds is a lifetime for the offensive-minded Malzahn.
"This fast-pace stuff, the fans love it...that's just where the game is going. All we're going to focus on is playing faster this year than last year."
Big ovation? That got one.
Malzahn was a leading advocate of keeping the fast offenses fast a month-or-so ago as some advocated a slower pace.
"It got everybody worked up a couple of weeks. It ruined my vacation, I tell you that," he joked.
Malzahn arrived for the meeting in a Gus Bus. No, really, a Gus Bus. The Shoals club painted the windows of a real-live bus with that message, sent it to the airport and picked him up. Malzahn started the night signing autographs and then talked as fast his offense runs in zipping through last season, the spring and the prospects for the fall.
The crowd loved it. But also Malzahn talked of his players playing things the right way.
"I told them last week that I was most proud of them, not for winning games, but the way they represent the university and their families," he said.
"When they do well in the classroom, it carries over the field.
"I always tell our players to use your influence in a positive way. I want people to see a difference in our players."
The Shoals club talked of doing things in a positive way, too. It has raised more than $100,000 in short order as part of a scholarship endowment.
The fans gave Malzahn a standing ovation when the night was done. And, just like that, he was gone, in a second.
Tiger Trek 2014
Cullman County Auburn Club
McGukin Civic Center
Wiregrass Auburn Club,
Barbour County Auburn Club,
& Dale County Auburn Club
National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds
(Alfa Commercial Building)
Montgomery Auburn Club
Elmore County Auburn Club,
& Autauga County Auburn Club
Alcazar Shrine Center
North Alabama Regional
Huntsville-Madison County Auburn Club
& North Alabama Auburn Club
Davidson Center for Space Exploration
Atlanta Auburn Club
Druid Hills Golf Club
Alabama Gulf Coast
Mobile County Auburn Club
& Baldwin County Auburn Club
Mobile Convention Center
Northeast Alabama Regional
Marshall County Auburn Club,
DeKalb County Auburn Club,
& Jackson County Auburn Club
Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge
Emerald Coast Auburn Club
Emerald Coast Convention Center
Greater Birmingham Auburn
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine