By Jeff Shearer
COLUMBIA, Mo. - When you take Buddy Davidson to a game, you arrive early. The man who has attended every Auburn football game for the past 60 years likes to soak it all in, from pregame to post.
"They'll be little times and little moments where you'll just look over and you'll say something and he'll get that grin on his face, and give you a fist pump," said Buddy's son, Rick, before Auburn's 51-14 win at Missouri. "And you know he's really excited about being here. It's something he really appreciates."
A streak that began in 1957 will reach No. 699 Saturday against Mississippi State, and could culminate at No. 700 when Auburn hosts Ole Miss on Oct. 7.
"We talked about back in May or June, and he mentioned he wanted to come here," Rick said. "We've never been here before.
"Then I asked him about the rest of the trips, and he kind of said, `Well, we'll see.' I followed up in August, because that's when we make our final plans and I start getting plane tickets. He said, `Ole Miss. That'll be a good one to stop on.'"
Buddy Davidson's streak started in the middle of Auburn's national championship season in '57 when the freshman from Montgomery joined the program as a student manager.
"I remember most every play in almost every one of those games better than I do some of them that happened two years ago," said Davidson in September of 2014, two weeks before a stroke impaired his speech and mobility. "We only gave up 28 points that whole year."
Even after the stroke, Buddy continued to attend every game, thanks to Rick, Buddy's wife, Fran, their grandsons and a network of devoted friends.
"Different people have stepped up and helped and have been incredibly giving of their own time and their efforts to keep this thing going, and have a lot of fun doing it, too," Rick said.
From student manager to sports information director to assistant athletics director to fan, The Streak has endured for 61 seasons.
"As we've done every summer since he had his stroke, I say, `We'll make it possible to go to any and every game you want to. It's your call.' We talked again this morning, and I said, `What do you think? You got two more in you?' He said, `Yeah.' I said, `How about after that?' He said [holding up two fingers], `Two more. Two more.'
"That doesn't mean he won't change his mind the Friday before we go to Baton Rouge, or even Saturday morning. Typically that's an evening game so if that happens, as he has trained me, I've got somebody ready to jump in the truck and head to Baton Rouge. It's still up to him."
For the Missouri game, three generations of Davidsons: Buddy, Rick and Rick's middle son, Luker, flew to St. Louis, rented a car and drove to Columbia. At times when Buddy's speech is not easily understood, Team Davidson uses the process of elimination to facilitate communication.
"Dad is such a sweetheart and such a kind person," Rick said. "He's just glad to be here and he's certainly not complaining if we can't figure it out. If it's something really important, we're going to figure it out."
For Buddy's family, the effort and expense of extending the streak are a small price to pay.
"There just aren't many big deals when you get to spend time with your dad and both of us get to steal this time we didn't really have when he was working 51 years," Rick said. "He would be out here on Thursday, I wouldn't see him for three or four days. He would go a week ahead of time to the bowl games, and that was a workweek for him, 60, 70, 80 hours, where everybody else was having a great time and enjoying it. Now, it's a privilege for him to come and just be a fan. It's easy."
For Buddy Davidson, the ultimate planner who meticulously plotted every detail of Auburn's road trips for decades, The Streak's irony is that it was unplanned.
"It just worked out," Buddy said in 2014. "I couldn't plan it. Didn't plan it. It just happened."
Buddy's last TV interview from September, 2014. Courtesy: WSFA-TV
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer