By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - When the pregame clock hits 24:30 before Auburn plays Ole Miss Saturday, a man who devoted his career to working in the background, generating attention for others, will be in the foreground, receiving attention for himself.
A streak that began on Nov. 2, 1957, will likely end Saturday, when Davidson attends his 700th consecutive Auburn football game.
For 61 seasons, Davidson’s devotion to Auburn manifested itself in a variety of roles. Student manager, sports information director, assistant athletics director, gameday volunteer, Auburn ambassador.
The titles have changed. The love for his alma mater has not.
Davidson mentored hundreds of students during the 50 years he worked for Auburn. In 1965, he began investing in the man who would succeed him as SID, future Auburn Director of Athletics David Housel.
“He gave me my first opportunity at Auburn back in June of 1965,” Housel said. “I don’t know where my life would be if Buddy hadn’t give me that shot.”
Davidson gave Housel an opportunity, just like Coach Shug Jordan had done for Buddy eight years earlier.
“All the people whose lives Buddy has impacted through Auburn,” Housel said. “Auburn is the common thread, and Buddy has helped a lot of people in the spirit of Auburn.”
From Davidson, Housel learned what it looked like to be an Auburn man.
“No. 1, Auburn was first,” Housel said. “Everything else was second. Your own self - you - might have been third, but Auburn was first. Whatever was best for Auburn was what you had to do.
"The second thing would be, in keeping with the Auburn creed, the value of work. Hard work. When you talk about putting Auburn first, you talk about loyalty, too.”
Reba Gulledge, who began working at Auburn in 1966, landed her first full-time job as Davidson’s receptionist.
“I thought he was so smart,” said Gulledge. “I thought he knew everything about Auburn Athletics.”
Forty-five years after arriving at Auburn, in 2002, Davidson mentored Jeremy Roberts in the complexities involved in team travel.
“A lot of things we’re doing today as we’re preparing to go to LSU next weekend, Buddy’s fingerprints are still on how we operate,” said Roberts, associate athletics director, operations.
From setting up plane manifests to requisitioning buses and working with hotels, Roberts learned from Davidson’s attention to detail.
“It’s important to treat people the right way and make sure we give ourselves the best chance to win,” Roberts said. “That’s his legacy with those of us who were able to work with him, is how he handled his business.”
Not even a stroke suffered during the 2014 season could keep Davidson from being in the stadium when the Tigers played.
“I think it’s especially impressive and moving, going back to work, hard work, how he has continued that streak even after he had his stroke,” Housel said. “There’s a lesson for all of us in that.”
Roberts said, “Just the commitment he has made, his family, his wife, Fran, and son, Rick, have made and a lot of his friends have made to see this thing to 700 is a testament to him.”
Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs lauded Davidson in Saturday’s game program.
“Buddy is one of finest people I’ve had the pleasure to know,” Jacobs wrote. “A true Southern gentleman who loves and cares for Auburn. For 60 years, he’s worked hard to make Auburn better. He’s an Auburn man who lives by our Creed.
“It’s my hope that each of us will follow Buddy’s example by serving others, working hard and loving Auburn. That’s the Buddy D way.”
Unless Davidson changes his mind, the streak will end Saturday with No. 700. Next week’s game in Baton Rouge will be the first Auburn game without Buddy in attendance since October of ’57.
“He’s crossed so many generations of Auburn people, Auburn student-athletes, Auburn coaches, Auburn fans, that when you talk about Auburn, you talk about Buddy Davidson,” Roberts said. “They’re one and the same.
“His history with Auburn is woven into so many different people that when you think about Buddy, you think about Auburn, you think about Auburn, you think about Buddy. It’s interchangeable. The number of people he’s touched, his 60-plus years of following Auburn is really hard to fathom.”
When Davidson is introduced in the south end zone, Housel will be watching from his seat outside the press box on the club level, waiting for his friend to join him after Buddy’s recognition. In just five words, Housel encapsulated Davidson’s impact over six decades.
“Auburn first, hard work, loyalty.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer