Auburn creates jealousy in SEC

Published 7:00 pm Thursday, January 13, 2011

Love ’em or hate ’em, the Auburn Tigers are BCS nationalchampions. The Southeastern Conference continues its dominance ofthe BCS, owning a fifth straight national championship.

Auburn fans were waving their orange and blue colors, andscreaming “War Eagle!” when Monday’s game finally arrived. Everysoul living below the Mason-Dixon line should have been pulling forAuburn when the Tigers met Oregon’s Ducks in Monday night’s titlegame. For sure, a lot of people outside the SEC were pulling forOregon. For sure, some jealous SEC rivals were against them,too.

Wait a minute. Let’s put this in proper perspective.

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Auburn was representing us, the South, on an internationalstage. That means folks who own pickup trucks, shiver when thethermometer sinks to 40 degrees and go to church on Sundays. Folkswho dip Skoal, deer hunt, plant vegetable gardens and go fishing.Folks who stay happily married until death do they part.

As county music superstar Alan Jackson would say, Auburn wasplaying for all those country/city folks who love fried chicken,cornbread, black-eyed peas and sweet tea. Add turnip greens, friedcatfish, fried tomatoes, okra, crawfish, shrimp, coleslaw andAmerican fries to the mix. For dessert, consider banana pudding andpecan pie.

Personally, I love cocoanut pie, especially my wife Laurie’srecipe. She can cook all of those above-mentioned southern dishesto perfection, too.

A fellow employee, an Alabama graduate, grunted with displeasurewhen Auburn’s narrow, last-second win over Oregon was rehashedTuesday morning. “Ugh. Anybody but Auburn. I can’t stand them.”

Spoken like a true, fanatical Crimson Tide fan. It’s unfortunatethat an Alabama native couldn’t pull for his college’s archrival onjust one occasion. The annual Iron Bowl, featuring Alabama versusAuburn, brings out the worst in both alumni groups. It makes theEgg Bowl, a.k.a. Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State, look like a picnicin the park.

Oh yeah, the jealousy runs deep, right here in the MagnoliaState. An Ole Miss fan, spoiled by two straight Cotton Bowlvictories before his beloved Rebels collapsed in 2010, voiced hisdistain. “I can’t wait to see the NCAA put Auburn onprobation.”

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has survived a maelstrom ofcontroversy and NCAA investigations in his recruiting process.Newton, a manchild at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, was an awesome forcethis season as a runner and a passer, winning the Heisman Trophy.His father tried to sell his son to the highest bidder last yearand offered him first to Mississippi State for $144,000.

Offering money to a recruit or his family is a blatant NCAAviolation. The elder Newton was banned from Auburn’s games afterthe NCAA investigation. Many in the sports media business expressedshock when the NCAA allowed Newton to continue playing forAuburn.

It was obvious that NBC’s sportscasters were leaning to the leftor the West coast when they shared their astute observations onMonday’s game. Oregon was fast and talented. The Ducks were kingsof the Pac-10. That made Auburn’s win all the more sweet.

It was 1957 when Auburn last won a national footballchampionship. Obviously, Alabama, LSU and Florida have morenational titles to their credit. Auburn kept that superior stringof BCS victories intact.

Most national champions have rifle-armed quarterbacks andsuper-fast running backs. What keeps the SEC on top the mountain ofwannabes is defense. The Ducks were bruised and battered when theygot through playing Auburn.

For SEC teams, every conference game is a war. It’s not realfootball unless a couple of players are knocked senseless.

In 2008, Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley was huntingquarterbacks and running backs as he prowled the trenches atCopiah-Lincoln Community College. Fairley still is stalkingopponents but he did it this past season for the BCS nationalchampions. You should see the 6-foot-5, 300-pound athlete playingon Sundays in the NFL when the 2011 season kicks off.

Fairley was recognized as National Lineman of the Year in 2010.He won the Lombardi Trophy and several more accolades.

Recently retired Co-Lin defensive coordinator Brett Shufeltremembers Fairley’s two years at Co-Lin. Fairley was placed on theWesson campus by former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville in anagreement with Co-Lin head coach Glenn Davis. Fairley needed someadditional time to mature mentally and physically after graduatingfrom Mobile-Williams High School.

Fairley redshirted his first year at Co-Lin and concentrated onthe academic side of college life. He played one season at Co-Linbefore returning to Auburn.

“Nick worked real hard for us and did a good job,” said Shufelt.”He was a very dominant player at our level. I remember he had areal good game against Coahoma and against Hinds. It was like a managainst boys.”

To his credit, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Fairley wasn’t swayed byother schools that sent coaches to Co-Lin on recruitingmissions.

“A lot of schools came in and tried to recruit Nick,” saidFairley. “Coach Davis did a good job keeping Nick focused.”

Fairley’s athletic strength and quickness received complimentsfrom the NBC broadcast crew. He sacked Oregon’s quarterback andstuffed running backs. He manhandled some of Oregon’s linemen.

Shufelt, who teaches world history and western civilization atCo-Lin, recalls an incident that took place off the football field,in Co-Lin’s Mullen Gymnasium. “The first time I saw him dunk abasketball was from the free throw line. I knew he was somethingspecial.”

In high school, Fairley was recruited as a basketball player,too.

“We are very proud of Nick and wish him all the success,” saidShufelt. “(Auburn assistant) Coach Tracy Rocker has done a greatjob as his position coach.”

One of Monday’s announcers said Fairley had a reputation as adirty player. The TV cameras caught him giving an Oregon runningback an extra twist of the gray helmet after he was tackled. Thataction received a 15-yard penalty.

“Nick will get a penalty for his aggressive behavior,” saidShufelt. “These are big strong guys. Nick was intimidating. Youexpect him to be tough.

“The thing that’s different about Nick is that he has so muchfinesse. He can do things with his hands on the blockers. He can dopass rush. And he’s so strong and quick.”

Off the field, Shufelt said Fairley is “a big teddy bear. He hasa sense of humor. I think he really enjoys his teammates and hisschool.”

Fairley should enjoy a prosperous NFL career.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or