Nov. 28, 2014
Chris Davis is on his way to Auburn lore in last season's Iron Bowl
By Charles Goldberg
Chris Davis seems to be a reluctant hero.
He hasn't sought the limelight from the greatest play in Auburn history, the one that may be the greatest play ever to end a college football game. He hasn't done a thousand interviews about how he returned a missed Alabama field goal try 109 yards to beat the Tide on the last play of last year's Iron Bowl.
He's trying to keep a lower profile play playing for the San Diego Chargers.
Good luck with that this weekend, Chris Davis, because the replays of your play, the one where return Adam Griffith's missed 57-yard field try 109 yards to beat Alabama 34-28 in the Iron Bowl, will be replayed a hundred times over leading up to Saturday's 6:45 p.m. rematch in Tuscaloosa.
A YouTube video from Auburn Athletics, and it's below, has been viewed more than three million times in a year. There are other videos that are just a click away, too.
"Some people call it luck or a miracle. I call it we're blessed. It was better than going to overtime, I'll tell you that," said offensive lineman Avery Young after the fact.
"He's a hero around here right now," said teammate and roommate Ryan Smith.
"When I caught the ball," Davis said afterwards, "I knew I would have room to run."
It would become known as the Kick Six.
Alabama had been leading Auburn 28-21 with less than a minute to play. The Tigers didn't blink. Nick Marshall threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates with 32 seconds left to tie the game.
Alabama had one more desperate chance, moved down the field to set up Griffith's field goal try.
We'll turn to Auburn play-by-play man Rod Bramblett for the call...
"I guess if this thing comes up short he can field it and run it out. All right, here we go. Fifty-six-yarder. It's got...no, it does not have the leg. And Chris Davis takes it in the back of the end zone. He'll run it out to the 10, 15, 20...25-30...35-40...45-50...45... There goes Davis! Davis is going to run it all the way back! Auburn is going to win the football game. Auburn is going to win the football game! He ran the missed goal back! He ran it back 109 yards! They're not going to keep them off the field tonight! Holy cow! Oh, my God! Auburn wins! Auburn has won the Iron Bowl! Auburn has won the Iron Bowl in the most unbelievable fashion that you will ever see! I cannot believe it!"
Davis was tackled near the end of that call, by his teammates in the end zone in celebration.
"When looked back, I said, 'I can't believe this.' When I was running, I said, 'God is good,'" Davis said then.
He cleared the last Alabama defender before the 50. It was clear sailing from there, with Jonathon Mincy and Robenson Therezie providing a safe escort.
"I just know Mincy pulled me down and I was under the pile from there," Davis said.
Auburn's unofficial official take on Davis' play, at least this week, is that was last year. The Tigers are focused on Saturday's game.
"I know it doesn't distract us," said coach Gus Malzahn. "Our guys, it's a new year, this is a new team, just like there's is a new team. There are players that have overlap, that have played in it, but this is a new year and a new game."
Or, as offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said, "we're not going to bring it up or talk about it because it can't help us this year. It's one of those things you've got to deal with. Both sides have to deal with it because it's kind of what comes with the week, just normal distractions and things that are out there."
Linebacker Kris Frost takes a more even-handed approach.
"I feel like with a great play like that, it deserves to be played over and over again," he said. "Going into this game with how important this game is and we know how much we have on the line, that play or that game has no effect on the outcome of this game. We know that we're going to have to prepare as hard as we possibly can for this game coming up."
Chris Davis landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated the week after he raced 109 yards. He received a standing an ovation when he walked into one of his classroom, too, all while trying to turn his attention to the SEC Championship Game.
"Chris has put that behind him," Malzahn had said. "He's focused on the Missouri Tigers."
Everything had happened so fast before that. If Alabama hadn't moved to the Auburn 38 in the final seconds, if it had challenged the time left on the clock on what most thought was the last play of regulation, if the officials hadn't put one second back on the clock for one last play...
...if Auburn hadn't changed its deep man waiting in the end zone.
Originally, it was Ryan Smith standing in the end zone ready to catch any wayward field goal try, not the SEC's leading punt returner, one Chris Davis, who was named the SEC special teams player of the week just weeks earlier when he returned a punt for a touchdown against Tennessee.
"We knew we'd ice the kicker, and then I looked and saw Ryan Smith back there deep and said, 'Ryan has never returned a punt, ever,'" remembered special teams coach Scott Foundation before the season.
"So we made the switch to put Chris back there. We knew if they tried a field goal it would give us an opportunity to make something happen. I didn't think the kicker could make it, but we knew he had a strong leg. We thought it would be a heck of a field goal if he did."
Flash to this calendar year. Auburn is out in California for the ESPYs. To the surprise of no one, Auburn wins for the game of the year, this win over Alabama; and for the play of the year, this Chris Davis' run into Auburn lore.
"I wish they had 10 more of these so I could give my other teammates who were on the field at that time, because without them, I wouldn't be standing here today," Davis said when accepting his ESPY. "Being nominated for an award is great, but winning one leaves an unbelievable feeling."
The helmet Davis wore for that play, complete with his autograph, recently sold at auction for $47,190. To Auburn, that play was worth a whole lot more than that.
Now, the play and the call...
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: