By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Zeke Smith was one of the big names in Auburn football in the 1950s, and so it was his bigger-than-life banner hung with the likes of Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Smith, who helped Auburn win the 1957 national title and who won the Outland Trophy in 1958, is again being remembered as one of the school's stars after passing away Friday at age 79.
Smith won the Outland Trophy in 1958 as the top lineman in the country. The Tigers never forgot his accomplishments. Each year Auburn's top defensive player is given the Zeke Smith Award.
"He set a high bar for Auburn football players to try to obtain, and very few have reached a level in college football that he did," said Jay Jacobs, Auburn’s Director of Athletics. "The great thing is that as great a football player as he was, he was a finer man and always an inspiration to be around. The Auburn family will miss him, but his legacy and his expectations for all of us will never be forgotten"
Smith played in the NFL, in 1960 and 1961 and in the CFL in 1962 and 1963. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1982.
"Zeke Smith is one of Auburn's most iconic players as our first national award winner and member of the 1957 national champions," coach Gus Malzahn said. "He has and will continue to be a representation of what an Auburn football player should strive to be. We are saddened by his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with he and his family."
He was born Roger Duane Smith, but became "Zeke" when his high school coach called him that because he ran like a pro quarterback of the day, Zeke Bratkowski. He came to Auburn from Uniontown, Ala., and like his teammates, played on offense and defense.
"Those were the toughest of the athletes because they played both ways," Jacobs said, "and they didn’t have the benefit of the equipment we have today, the nutritionists and the sports medicine and the training. Those guys just gutted it out. They created an opportunity for those behind them.
"He demonstrated what being a great football player was all about."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine