I wrote From the Heart of the Tiger just before football season started in 2001. It just kind of poured out of me. It is really just a love letter to a place that is incredibly special to me and so many other people. Since I first wrote it as an email, it was published in the football program, Auburn Football Illustrated, the same year with my permission and has been passed around and changed beyond recognition without my permission. In 2003, it got passed back to me with all of the Auburn references having been replaced to make it about the University of Georgia. That is when I decided to get the copyright. It pops up every August just before football season with someone else's edits and someone else's name credited.
I'm telling you, here and now, this is the original.
Hope you like it. WAR EAGLE!!
From the Heart of a Tiger
Auburn is so much more than a city or a school or a team or a degree. It is something that, once you have experienced it, will live inside of you forever and become a part of what makes up who you are.
It is driving into town on a game day. You may have come from hundreds of miles away and as you get closer and closer to the city limits, you feel it rising inside of you. Other cars on the highway proudly display their Orange and Blue flags or magnets or car tags, and you honk and wave at them, because, for that one day, you are all on the same team.
It is the smell in the air and the ritual of tailgating - catching up with old friends, making new ones, and invitations from perfect strangers to try their ribs or watch their satellite TV showing all of the day’s important match-ups...of course, all being secondary to the one that will occur in the great cathedral of Jordan-Hare later that day.
It is the Tiger Walk...where you might just see 300 pound men overcome with emotion and weeping with pride, because you have come there to cheer them on. As they walk by, you might exchange a glance with one or two of them, and you can see it in their eyes...today is going to be their day.
It is the students...dressed in their best, because going to an Auburn game is like going to church for Auburn people....you show the same respect as you would if you were in God’s house. Those students remind you of the days when you were walking in their shoes and Auburn was your home...but then you realize, in many ways, it is still and always will be HOME.
It is that lump that rises in your throat when the band plays the Alma Mater as the Eagle is soaring over your head during pre-game.
It is walking around on a “foreign” and sometimes hostile campus. You are easily identified (Auburn people always are) and the enemy jeers and shouts things at you to mask their feelings of intimidation. But just then you happen upon a friend you have never met before. You know they are your friend by the colors they wear or the shaker in their hand. You exchange a “War Eagle” and a confident grin, because they know what you know.
It is when your heart leaps with every touchdown, field goal, sack, and interception...because those are our boys. And win or lose, they will always have our un-dying support. After all, it is those boys that you are really there for and not a coach or a logo or a trustee or a president.
It is the complete and utter exhilaration of walking away victorious over a worthy opponent...that feeling of pride and accomplishment as if it were your own feet that had crossed the goal line scoring the last points yourself...that feeling of wanting to scream “War Eagle” at the top of your lungs and hug complete strangers.
And then there is the ultimate high of defeating your most hated foes from across the state. No words can describe what this feels like, but you know because you have experienced it.
It is the sheer agony of defeat as the last minutes tick off of the clock, and you realize that all hope of a victory is gone. You feel like crying and maybe you do...then you hear the faint sounds of a cheer that grows louder and louder....”Its Great To Be An Auburn Tiger.”
It is knowing that year after year, no matter how things change in our hectic lives, you can always come back to “the Loveliest Village on the Plains”... the place where you came from...your home. It will probably look a little different and there will be new names on the backs of the jerseys, but deep down, no matter what, it is still the same. You still love it as much as you always have, because Auburn is as much a part of you as your arms and your legs and the Orange and Blue blood that runs through your veins.
And, finally, it is the feeling you have right now as you read these lines....the anticipation inside of you, because you know its almost time...Its about to start all over again...but then it really never goes away, does it?
Let’s play ball...