Nov. 19, 2011
By Jack Smith
Surrounded by former teammates and family, Pat Sullivan received a rousing ovation from fans and a moving tribute from current Auburn players, who held their helmets high as Sullivan was honored at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.
Sullivan smiled and soaked in what was a special moment at midfield when Auburn's first Heisman Trophy winner was honored, 40 years after winning college football's most coveted award.
Former Auburn great Terry Henley's voice cracked as he talked about what the Sullivan tribute meant to him.
"It's the most exciting thing I think I have ever been involved with," Henley said. "The emotion surrounding him, the salute from the current players and all of the former players being here with him, it was pretty special. It was a chilling moment."
Former Director of Athletics David Housel said Saturday's recognition was a moment he won't soon forget.
"That is one of the finest things that Auburn has ever done," Housel said.
"To hear them talk, to see the look in their eye and the joy in their heart in being back at Auburn, and being on the field with Pat, that says more than words can ever say about what it means to them," Housel said. "It's a special time for a very, very special man."
Danny Bentley, who lettered at Auburn from 1966-'69, was a senior when Sullivan was a sophomore. It didn't take him long to size up Sullivan when he arrived at Auburn. Despite being a highly recruited quarterback, Bentley said Sullivan was as humble then as he is today.
"We knew he was a special player when he got here. When he stepped out on the field, you knew he was a leader. To have as much talent and recognition as he got, it did not influence him or change him. He was the kind of leader you want to be."
Buddy Davidson, who was Sports Information Director at Auburn when Sullivan was recruited and through his Heisman-winning season, said Saturday's tribute was vintage Pat Sullivan.
"The only way he wanted to be recognized was by having his former teammates there with him today," Davidson said. "They were a really close team when they played here together. Pat was always willing to share everything with the team. He was one of thefirst players to win the Heisman to take several of his teammates with him to New York."
After the tribute, Housel put what Sullivan means to Auburn people into perspective.
"Pat Sullivan gave Auburn people the greatest thing you could ever give them, hope. And he delivered on that hope."