April 21, 2014
Six former Auburn greats were inducted to the Tiger Trail on Friday night (Anthony Hall photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN – Doc Robinson and Meagan Rivera, a point guard and a soccer goalkeeper, came to Auburn from very different places to play very different sports. Different though they were, both were part of historic highs.
Last Friday night, both were honored with induction to the Tiger Trail that honors Auburn’s all-time greats.
Robinson, from Selma, signed with Auburn in 1998. He was a four-year starter at point guard, a two-time All-SEC selection and an All-American. He helped the 1999 Tigers to the SEC championship, a No. 1 seed and a trip to the Sweet 16.
Robinson was a recruiting coup for head coach Cliff Ellis and his staff.
“It was a great experience,” said Robinson, who lives in Atlanta with his wife, Shawnta, and works in logistics. “Just being able to put our stamp on it and build a program was great. Seeing it grow from my freshman year to my senior year, seeing it go from 5,000 in the stands to 11,000 in the stands, was a great experience.”
The recruiting battle for Robinson went to the wire. He said he chose Auburn over Alabama when Ellis told him he would “put the ball in your hands for four years.” And that’s what happened.
“This is just a great honor,” Robinson said. “I want to thank my Auburn family, my teammates and the coaches who were here then. Without them, none of this would be possible. My heart will forever bleed orange and blue and my soul will forever yell War Eagle.”
Rivera, from Miami, was one of the nation’s top soccer prospects in 2001. Karen Hoppa was heading toward her third season as Auburn’s head coach. She’d had losing SEC records her first two seasons. Auburn had never been to an NCAA Tournament or won a championship of any kind.
Rivera had her choice of almost any soccer program in the country. Even when Hoppa convinced her to visit, Rivera cautioned that Auburn was No. 5 on a list of five. But once she saw the Auburn campus, everything changed. And Auburn soccer changed, too.
Rivera was a four-time All-American. In her four seasons, Auburn won four SEC West Division championships, an overall SEC championship and played in NCAA regionals four times. Friday night, she became the first soccer player to be inducted to the Tiger Trail.
“No doubt in my mind she is the right one,” Hoppa said. “She was in my second recruiting class. Auburn had never been to the NCAA, never won a championship, anything. Just her committing to Auburn legitimized our program.”
Rivera said the decision to sign with Auburn still affects her life today.
“I was fortunate to have such a wonderful team in front of me that I didn’t really have to do much a lot of times,” Rivera said. “I felt like we had such a unique opportunity in front of us of setting a bar, not having to reach expectations but to be a part of what would become an expectation.”
Rivera and her teammates did that, and she said they benefitted immensely in the process.
“My success on the field - the teamwork, the hard work, the willpower - have transcended into my success of today,” Rivera said. “I came away from Auburn not only with an education but with life experiences that made me what I am today.”
Football running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown also accepted induction into the Tiger Trail. Swimming coach Richard Quick and Cleve Wester, a lineman on the 1957 national championship team, were inducted posthumously.
David Marsh, who swam for Quick at Auburn, coached Auburn’s men to seven national championships and women to five. When Marsh left Auburn, Quick replaced him. Now the CEO/director of coaching at SwimMAC Carolina in Charlotte, N.C., Marsh returned for Quick’s induction.
“He was always coaching,” Marsh said. “I remember not so much listening to what he said but watching what he was doing. I just tried to do what he was doing. Twenty-six years later, I still try to do what Richard did. I figure if I do that, I’ll be successful.”
Hall of Fame lineman Ken Rice was there to speak for Wester, his late friend and teammate. Rice was a freshman, ineligible according to the rules of the time, when Auburn won the national championship in 1957. But he saw it up close.
“Those guys loved to work and loved to win,” Rice said. “Nobody loved it better than Cleve did. He’d take the shirt off his back and give it to you. I am very, very proud that he was my friend.”
Dynamic Duo: Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: