A team full of heroes makes up the nation’s top football team in 2010
By Kate Asbury Larkin
It certainly was not news to anybody with a pulse that the Auburn Tigers won the 2010 Bowl Championship Series (BCS). On Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz., a decidedly predominant Auburn crowd celebrated a close 22-19 win over the Oregon Ducks. The championship capped off an entire season comprised of the stuff dreams are made of.
After an impressive 2009 finish in Gene Chizik’s first year as head coach, expectations were high for another banner year, but if the truth were really told, very few would admit to predicting the outcome that became reality.
The success did not happen by chance. It came about from a unique team bonding in a way few other groups ever have; a team with collective faith, not only in each other, but also in God. They sincerely and obviously wanted what was best for the “we” and not just for the “I.”
So what made this team so special? Who were they?
For starters, the leader was a head coach who stepped onto campus to a less than cordial welcome. Fans, to say the least, were not at all impressed with Athletic Director Jay Jacobs’s decision to hire a coach with a losing record. Although Chizik had been the defensive coordinator for the Tigers in the 2004 undefeated season, his 5-19 record as head coach at Iowa State seemed to tarnish his reputation, and fans were quick to offer opinions.
But while fans sent scathing emails and calls to the athletic department (as well as other offices on campus), Chizik simply went about the business of building a staff and recruiting players to fit his system.
This team boasted an energetic assistant head coach who wore his signature baseball cap backward as a tribute to his father who died when his son was 12. His death left a non-English-speaking Hispanic mother to raise 16 children by herself in a small Texas town that was anything but accepting of a biracial family. Trooper Taylor focused on the cohesiveness of the team, giving every player the last name Taylor. Onterio McCalebb Taylor, Emory Blake Taylor, Phillip Lutzenkirchen Taylor. As Taylor said, “Most teams have offense and defense, but Auburn also has a ‘we-fense.’”
This team was led by senior Kodi Burns, the starting quarterback as a sophomore before taken out of the limelight and moved to wide receiver. Instead of being angry and bitter, Burns stepped up as a team leader and held the team together like Mighty Putty. He stood strong and proud and continued to do whatever was necessary for the whole team to succeed, not just Burns. In the end, that attitude worked well for him.
On this team was Zac Etheridge, who in October 2009 lay motionless on the grass in Jordan-Hare Stadium, the result of a broken neck from a hard hit. But when the season kicked off in September, Etheridge not only dressed out, he played and played well, an inspiration and proof that God was still in the miracle business.
The pilot of the offense was Cam Newton, a third-string quarterback at the University of Florida and junior college transfer who the 2010-season media guide barely mentioned. But it did not take long to notice this special player as he totally took the world of college football by storm – dazzling spectators, shattering records, ignoring brutal allegations and accusations, and yet staying strong as he won a landslide victory to become Auburn’s third Heisman trophy winner.
There is number five, Michael Dyer, whose number honored his brother who was the tender age of 5 when the boys’ father died. The kindergartner became a little man who protected Dyer, his younger brother. His brother did not know why Dyer wore the number five until this year.
And then there was Neil Caudle, a spiritual leader, who was the top quarterback in the state coming out of high school in 2006; who battled back from injuries and yet got very few chances to stand under center during a game. The same Caudle, the long-snap holder wearing number 19, held on a 19-yard field goal with 19 seconds left on the play clock to break a 19-19 tie as time ran out to give the Tigers the first national championship since 1957.
More than 100 other stories make this team so extraordinary. It was a family in itself that is part of a much larger Auburn Family; a distinction not taken lightly by its members who proclaim to be All In. They congregated by the tens of thousands at Tiger Walks, pep rallies, games almost 2,000 miles away and at home at their beloved Toomer’s Corner.
All they did was win, win, win…
the 2010 BCS National Championship. War Eagle!