By Jeff Shearer
COLUMBIA, Mo. - For the family of Auburn All-America offensive lineman Braden Smith, Auburn’s road trip to Missouri was their home game.
Eleven members of Team Braden, including Smith’s parents, high school football and track coaches and youth track coach, traveled two hours from their home in Olathe, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, to see Auburn’s 51-14 win.
"It was a great experience for me playing in front of a lot of family and friends,” Braden said. “To go out and get a win is obviously a big deal for me because I've never had this much family and friends at a game before. It was a great experience and great to come out with a victory."
Smith, who has started 31 consecutive games, first visited Auburn thanks in part to his sister, Megan, who made a recruiting trip for track and field in 2010.
“She came back and said she just loved it,” said David Smith, Braden’s dad. “We got to see the Cam Newton South Carolina game, so dad liked it, too. She told Braden, ‘Oh, I love it there.’”
Megan Smith became a champion thrower at Texas Christian. Braden earned acclaim at Auburn.
“It’s worked out well,” David said. “It’s so funny, because I saw him on his other recruiting trips. When he came to Auburn, you could tell right away. He was never homesick, not one bit ever. He’s loved it there from day one.”
Smith’s family looks forward to another relatively short road trip on Oct. 21 against Arkansas, a four-hour drive to Fayetteville, 10 fewer hours than the drive Olathe to Auburn.
“We’re really thankful that he’s able to play close to home this time, senior year,” Jane said. “It’s exciting.”
After four years in the South, Braden’s parents can detect a dose of Dixie in their son.
“Every time he texts, it’s always with ‘y’all,’” said Braden’s mom, Jane. “I think his girlfriend has rubbed off on him, ha.”
Even though it means leaving at sunrise and arriving after sunset, the Smiths say those 14-hour road trips to Auburn are worth it.
“Every time we go down to Auburn, we just think it’s beautiful and the people are wonderful,” Jane said. “It’s the perfect place for him. We’re so happy he chose Auburn.”
After the game, Smith dressed quickly to allow as much time as possible to visit before boarding the bus to the airport. Braden Smith, the big man from Kansas, was going back to his home away from home.
“I think he couldn’t have chosen a better place,” Jane said. “He’s been so happy there. We’ve never heard a negative about Auburn. He loves it.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer
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