Tucker Tuberville makes his move as an Auburn quarterback against Idaho
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — He drove most of the night, and then again the next morning to make kickoff. And now here was Tommy Tuberville sitting in the stands Saturday, not as a former Auburn head football coach, but as a dad.
Tommy Tuberville saw his son, Tucker, play in his first college game, ever, in Jordan-Hare Stadium, a reward for a player who served the last three years as a walk-on quarterback for the Tigers.
"If I was ever going to see him play in Jordan-Hare, this was going to be it," reasoned the coach. "I watched him at Tiger Walk, got a hug picture and watched him play a few snaps. I really enjoyed it."
Tucker Tuberville, who grew up in Auburn, played in the fourth quarter of the Tigers' 56-34 win over Idaho. His playing time was not guaranteed when his dad jumped in a car at 12:30 a.m. Saturday after coaching his team, Cincinnati, at South Florida.
The trip was worth it for Tommy and Tucker Tuberville.
"I've been in that stadium a lot of times, so being on the field for once was something different," said Tucker Tuberville. "It was fun."
Tuberville will leave his playing days behind after this season. He hopes to go into coaching like his father. He'll take with him these lifetime stats: Two carries for 14 yards, no pass completions or attempts, plenty of memories.
"It's a good feeling. I'm kind of on Cloud Nine. It hasn't hit me yet," Tuberville said after the game.
Tucker Tuberville has spent the last four years as a scout team quarterback, first at Texas Tech when his dad coached there, then the last three years at Auburn.
"So you really don't expect to play, especially when you're the scout team quarterback. I never really expected to, so it was really good to get out there," he said.
Tuberville said appreciated coach Gus Malzahn for giving him a chance.
"It means a lot. It really does. I love Coach Malzahn," he said. "He gave me a great opportunity here. I love to be able to soak everything up, from how to handle certain situations to, obviously, his offense and everything. It's been a blessing to be here the last three years."
"Tucker," Malzahn said, "is an outstanding young man. He's been a blessing for us as coaches. He's going to be a heck of a coach, too. It's good for him to get out there and do his thing, and I'm sure he was happy.
"He does a lot for our team. I was just happy he had an opportunity to play."
His dad said the Tubervilles sought no special favors.
"I told him I'm not making one call," said his dad. "You've got to do it all on your own. And he did. Gus didn't have to do it, with me leaving there, and that he might take a little bit of flak for having a Tuberville on the team. But he never wavered. He's been great. Tucker has had a great time."
Tucker Tuberville said he appreciated his father making the trip to Jordan-Hare.
"That was really special. He told me Thursday he would get a chance to come here," he said. "It's hard for him to do that. For him to drive up from Tampa after the game and take time out of his day, because they have a big game next week, is special. Not a lot of guys could do that."
Tucker Tuberville, who used to drive golf carts on the practice field while his dad coached at Auburn, returned to those same fields for duty that has hardly been glamourous. Such is the life of a scout team quarterback, especially going against a Will Muschamp defense.
"Coach Muschamp yells 'thud the quarterback' about 30 times in practice," Tucker Tuberville said. "Earlier in the year, there were a couple of weeks I got hit a good bit."
"He's gotten the heck knocked out of him as scout team guys do," said his dad. "They never get any praise. It's a thankless job, but it's well worth it because you learn as much as the other players."
It's been all part of the preparation for Tucker Tuberville to become a coach.
"He's a finance major, but for some reason he wants to get in this business I'm in. I've tried to talk him out of it," his dad joked. "But he'll make a great coach. He really likes it, and you've got to be dedicated to be in our business. He's learned a lot from Gus and his staff, and he's learned a different approach.
"I told him to stay with me for one year, and then you can go wherever you want. At the end of the year he said he was going to Auburn. I said, 'What?' 'I'm going to Auburn.' I told him he could, but you've got to get on the team on your own."
Tommy Tuberville was Auburn's coach from 1999-2008. It wasn't always easy.
"It's life lessons," he said. "The good thing about Tucker he's had a chance to learn from my situations, the good and the bad. And now at Auburn, I think that's going to help him."
Tommy Tuberville has attended two spring games and, he guessed, four or five real games, since his son joined the team. Saturday, he and his wife, Suzanne, took it all in.
"When I come back to Auburn, I sit in the stands, take pictures, sign autographs. It's fun to come back," he said. "Auburn is like home. I spent 10 years there with the ups and downs, criticism and praise."
But on this Saturday, he was mainly Tucker Tuberville's dad.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine