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`She takes care of us' -- Kristi Malzahn serves as motherly figure for football team
Deshaun Davis:
Deshaun Davis: "Everybody always says Auburn is a family and it's a family atmosphere. Miss Kristi (right) plays a big part in that with the players."
May 12, 2018


By Greg Ostendorf
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. -- Moments after the SEC championship game, a dejected Darius Slayton headed toward the locker room. Auburn had just lost to Georgia, and Slayton didn't want to see or talk to anyone. When he saw Kristi Malzahn, wife of head coach Gus Malzahn, he did his best to try and sidestep her.

This was the same woman that he shared a celebratory hug with just three weeks prior when the Tigers took down Georgia at Jordan-Hare Stadium. But there was little reason to celebrate after a loss. Slayton just wanted to get dressed and get on the bus.

Kristi stopped him anyway.

"She just kind of grabbed me and gave me a hug and gave me some encouraging words," Slayton said. "That helped. Obviously, it was a tough loss. I appreciate her doing that. She doesn't have to do that. She doesn't have to wait in the tunnel to talk to us. It was comforting in the moment because it was a big loss. Obviously, I was upset. So I appreciated that."

Kristi doesn't have to do any of it. She doesn't have to celebrate with the players after a win or offer encouragement when they lose. She doesn't have to invite them over to her house for pizza and wings in the spring. She doesn't have to keep tabs on them and check on them periodically to make sure they're making the right decisions.

But she does. Why? Because that's what their own mother would do. And when these players sign with Auburn, she takes on a similar role in their lives.

"Miss Kristi is a big motherly figure to a lot of people on the team," senior linebacker Deshaun Davis said. "I think it's big for us because with us being away from home, we don't actually have our mother there. Whenever she sees us, she always gives us a big hug, asks us how we're doing with our grades -- the regular thing that your biological mother would ask.

"She takes care of us. When we're in need, we know we can go and talk to her about anything. She shows us so much love all the time, and it's sincere. I know the guys on the team appreciate it, and I appreciate it myself."

"It's kind of refreshing," added senior defensive lineman Dontavius Russell. "She's more of a refreshing presence rather than just someone you have to interact with."

Kristi and Gus have two daughters of their own -- one of which recently had a baby, making them grandparents for the first time. But there are more than 100 football players that she tends to every year as if they were her own sons.

The initial relationship begins during the recruiting process when Kristi meets the players and more importantly, meets their families.

"She talked about a family and really getting to know my family members -- my brother and sister, my parents -- really just trying to get to know us and tell us the reasons to come to Auburn," senior H-back Chandler Cox said. "She'd kind of just tell them that we're going to be OK, that she'll take care of us."

"She was huge in it," added Davis. "I know because when I was going on my recruiting visit, her and my mother sat down a couple times and talked, and she was just telling my mom how she was going to care of us. If we needed any words of encouragement or words of wisdom, she would deliver them to us. She hasn't gone back on it her word. I've talked to her plenty of times about some things, and she's given me some great information."

It's not just for show with Kristi. That relationship continues throughout each player's tenure at Auburn. Sure, the head coach plays a major role in the lives of his players. But his wife wants to make an impact on their lives as well. She wants to be there for them.

So as an Auburn player, expect "Miss Kristi" to be there celebrating with you after a win. She'll also be there to give you a hug if you lose. More than anything, though, she'll just be around. She'll be at practice. She'll invite you and your teammates to the house. She'll text or tweet you from time to time to see how you're doing.

She does it all because she cares.

"Everybody always says Auburn is a family and it's a family atmosphere," Davis said. "She plays a big part in that with the players."

Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter:

 

 

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