By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Takeo Spikes slammed down his phone in frustration.
The legendary former Auburn linebacker was struggling to meet a deadline to finish the landing page for his book's website.
"Maybe 10 seconds later I saw a call from the Birmingham area code," Spikes said. "I picked it up, and the guys told me, `Welcome to the club. Welcome to the Hall of Fame.'"
Surprised to learn of his induction into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, Spikes thought at first someone might be pranking him.
"I hope nobody's not being straight with me because I'm about to roast you right now," he remembers thinking. "I guess the Good Lord knew I needed something to keep me going, to stay focused, just to keep everything in perspective more than anything.
"It's a huge honor. I'm very humbled that the majority of voters looked at me in a light as far as being great."
Spikes will join fellow Auburn greats Carnell Williams and the late Lee DeFore, a basketball star in the `60s, in the Hall's Class of 2017. They will be inducted May 13, 2017, at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel.
"It's awesome," said Williams, a star running back from 2001-2004. "I'm very honored to be a Hall of Famer in the state of Alabama. It's such an honor. I'm happy and very excited about it."
Williams holds Auburn's record for rushing touchdowns with 45.
"To be going in that class with one of the best who ever played in the state of Alabama, and to be joining former Auburn alumni, Hall of Famers, it means a lot," Williams said. "This is a special honor."
DeFore, who died in 2014, left Auburn as the school's all-time scoring leader. His 19.0 scoring average still ranks fifth all-time.
Williams played six seasons in the NFL before transitioning into coaching. He's a graduate assistant at West Georgia.
"It's definitely a good fit," Williams said. "I just love being around young people, mentoring people, and I felt like what better way to get into coaching a game I'm so passionate about and love.
"Being around this game, being on the coaching side, the feeling is awesome to have the young guys look up to me, take in the coaching, not only on the field but also off the field. Just helping these guys become better men for their future families. It's awesome to see that."
Spikes also seeks to inspire the young players he works with at camps.
"It's not by accident," he said. "I gave up a lot to get to this point where I'm at. To even earn this accolade that I'm receiving. I gave up a lot.
"My message to the younger generation is it's okay to sacrifice a lot of what your friends may be doing at the time now in order to achieve more, and greatness, later in life."
Questions from campers about how he was able to succeed and why he was willing to sacrifice prompted Spikes to write a book, Behind the Mask, about linebackers.
"It's truly been a labor of love," said Spikes, who played 15 seasons in the NFL after starring for the Tigers from 1995-97. "You can find more about it, to get more snippets on it, if you go to behindthemaskbook.com. And I'm going all the way back from the `50s all the way up until now, to some of the greatest linebackers of all time. The majority of them are all Hall of Famers. I'm sharing their stories, on how did they become great. What made them become an outlier?
"It was a way for me to honor the guys who came before me, who I really looked up to. The other part is, I told the guys, `I want you to be the author of your own autobiography. Let me just use the platform to share your story.' And that's exactly what I did."
Williams and Spikes closely follow their alma mater, especially the players at their respective positions.
"I think those two were a really good combination," Williams said of running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. "They definitely complemented each other, kind of like the situation with me and Ronnie (Brown). It seemed like those guys kind of fed off each other.
"The big guy, Pettway, the way he stepped in and got the offense rolling. The way he runs downhill. The way he takes on blocks, breaks tackles, it was awesome to see. Then you've got the speedster, Kerryon, a guy who can do it all. Change it up. As far as the running back position, Auburn is in really good shape. I'm just looking forward to going to see those guys and see how things turn out in the Sugar Bowl."
"I think we've gotten better," said Spikes. "I can honestly say we've gotten better over the past few years, especially since T-Will (linebackers coach Travis Williams) has had his hands on the imprint, and also Coach Kevin Steele, Rodney Garner.
"We're not there, yet. And I'm speaking from a guy who is vested into the program, and I'm pretty sure those guys feel like they're not there, yet, and they're not where they want to be. As long as we can keep the continuity together, what we have defensively, I wake up and I look forward to seeing those guys play on Saturday."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer