Oct. 12, 2013
Chandler Shakespeare breaks away on a 30-yard run against Western Carolina on Saturday (Anthony Hall photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - It was early in the fourth quarter when running back Chandler Shakespeare finally heard the words he'd been waiting to hear since he left Delta State to walk on at Auburn.
Running backs coach Tim Horton told him to be ready. He would go in on the next possession. And sure enough, Shakespeare sprinted out with his teammates. All those early mornings in the weight room, all those practices in the heat of August had been for this one moment.
It didn't matter that Auburn already led Western Carolina 62-3. It didn't matter that most of the homecoming crowd was long gone. For the first time, Shakespeare played in an Auburn football game.
"It's kind of like the icing on the cake for my college career, the stuff I've accomplished on and off the field," said Shakespeare, who graduated last May. "It showed me I can do anything in life as long as I put my mind to it. This is really like a stepping stone to my future."
Once Shakespeare, who was awarded a scholarship last summer, was in the game, it was his show. Auburn started at its own 36 with 12:35 left. Shakespeare carried 10 straight times for 61 yards. He had a 30-yard run to the Western Carolina 23. His coaches and teammates wanted him to score a touchdown, but head coach Gus Malzahn also didn't want to further embarrass the Catamounts.
With first down on the 10, the Tigers ran the play clock down on every snap and ran up the middle four straight times. Throw in a delay of game penalty, and there would be no touchdown for Shakespeare.
That did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm.
On that drive, Auburn broke the school record for total offense in a game with 712 yards on a Shakespeare run.
"It felt good," Shakespeare said. "That will give me something to tell my kids, that I finished it off to help break the record."
On the sideline Shakespeare's teammates cheered him on.
"They supported me, especially my running backs," Shakespeare said. "From the jump, I could hear them on the sideline cheering for me. It really showed we are all on one heartbeat."
Before Shakespeare got into the game, junior running back Patrick Lymon, another former walk-on who got a scholarship last summer, got his chance. He rushed for five times for 20 yards.
Numerous players had firsts on Saturday. True freshman Johnathan Ford, who moved from running back to cornerback in preseason camp, played cornerback and running back. He ran twice for 45 yards and had a 38-yard touchdown run.
"It felt awesome," Ford said. "It was a feeling like no other. I was so happy, excited and overwhelmed. I'm just blessed to have the opportunity."
Sophomore wide receiver Melvin Ray caught the first three passes of his career for 44 yards. Senior fullback Jay Prosch caught his first touchdown pass. Freshman wide receiver Tony Stevens caught his first touchdown pass. Sophomore defensive tackle JaBrian Niles got his first sack. And, of course, starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson played for the first time.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said it was valuable to play so many players.
"I think it's really good," Malzahn said. "It gives you a lot of depth, and we've played a lot of guys this year anyway. Anytime they get more experience, it does nothing but help you."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: