Aug 20, 2013
ROCHELLE, Ga. - Chances are, unless you were going there, you've never been to the little town where Nick Marshall became a Georgia High School legend. You aren't likely to go through Rochelle, home of Wilcox County High School, on your way to anywhere, unless maybe it's Pineview 10 miles up the road on Highway 112.
Only about 9,000 people live in Wilcox County. There are two flashing caution lights and no red lights. Pineview, population 500, is where Marshall grew up and where his family still lives. Go another 15 miles up the road to the next county and you'll come to big city of Hawkinsville with a population of about 8,000.
I spent Monday in those rural Georgia towns, talking to family, friends and coaches of Auburn's new starting quarterback. I ate the house specialty, a scrambled chili dog, at D.R. Chili Dogs in downtown Rochelle. The sign out front advertises "The best dog ever bitten by man."
A man who looked to be probably in his 80s sat at the counter sipping a beer. He told me he was from upstate New York and wondered if I knew anything about boxing. He said he was a cut man for heavyweight boxer Emile Griffin and others and knew the likes of Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. A couple of teen-agers hooted and hollered as they played on the pool tables in the back.
In case you were wondering, a scrambled chili dog is a hot dog with chili, mustard, ketchup, cheese, onions and crackers.
Wilcox County is a 1A school with some 350 students in grades 9-12, but football is a big deal there. Head coach Mark Ledford, a former Wilcox County quarterback, grew up in Rochelle. He has built a consistent winner that sends an impressive number of players on to play in college. All his assistants played at Wilcox County, too.
"It means a little more to us," Ledford says.
Wednesday morning, I'll have an indepth story about Marshall's journey from rural Georgia to becoming Auburn's starting quarterback.
Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson gave a sobering injury report after Monday's practice. Most sobering was word that defensive end Dee Ford, Auburn's most dynamic pass rusher, won't play in the season-opener against pass-happy Washington State.
My guess is the there'll be a lot of points scored on Aug. 31 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. ...
Listening to satellite radio, as I did as I drove Monday, you could come away with the idea that nobody in the SEC beyond last season's top six has ever won anything. The effort folks put into trying to convince themselves the SEC really isn't that good is rather amusing. ...
It looks like safety Demetruce McNeal, dismissed by Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn last Saturday, will play at Division II West Alabama. Good for him. He has the potential to play on Sundays. ...
The NCAA reversed itself Monday and declared former Marine Steven Rhodes immediately eligible to play at Middle Tennessee State. That was the right move, of course. If the NCAA would do what it claims to do and always put the welfare of student-athletes first. ...
Until next time ...
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: