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From 1988 until 1994, he played the character Ted Marcus on “In the Heat of the Night.” He guest starred as the title character “Israel” in the Emmy Award-winning episode of “NYPD Blue,” entitled “Lost Israel.” He has appeared in the feature films “XXX 2,” “Fight Club,” and “Jeepers Creepers II” and played principal roles in “Miss Evers’ Boys” for HBO and “Miracle in the Woods” for CBS. He’s been featured on “The West Wing,” “Touched by an Angel,” “ER,” “Chicago Hope,” “Cold Case,” and many others. In his latest, Gossom has landed a part in a new WB series, “Jack and Bobby,” in which he plays Joseph Ride, the owner of JR’s BBQ and the father of one of the young boys on the show. He also has a recurring role as a judge on “Boston Legal.”

A little known fact is that Gossom’s acting career got a start— though a tentative one—while he was at Auburn. “I ended up taking a theater course, and by then, I was a starter on the football team. There were about 10 of us in there and the professor told us to lie on the floor and grow like a tree. And I was on that floor and thinking if (offensive coordinator) Coach (Gene) Lorendo passes by here and sees me growing like a tree, I might lose my job,” he laughed. “So I didn’t take any more theater classes until I got out of Auburn.”

But his legacy at Auburn is and will likely always be rooted in athletics, not theater. He was the third black athlete at Auburn, walking on after high school. The first black athlete to receive a scholarship was Henry Harris, a basketball player from Boligee, Ala., in 1968, and the first scholarship football player was James Owens of Fairfield in 1969. Harris and Owens became stars in their respective sports. Though a member of the 1972 team that Coach Ralph (Shug) Jordan called his favorite team of his 25-year career on the Plains, Gossom and his influence on Auburn has transcended football.

that’s changed now. Of Auburn’s fall semester enrollment of 22,928 students, 1,710 or 7.5 percent were African-American. “You look at all the colleges we have in Alabama, I mean we still have the predominantly black schools,” says Gossom. “I think schools will have to continue to diversify and diversity doesn’t just mean numbers. It means culturally.” He credits former Auburn President William V. Muse for spotlighting the problems with diversity at Auburn and getting him involved in efforts to attract more black students to Auburn in the early 1990s. He says his own adjustment as a student-athlete was easier since he had gone to high school at John Carroll, a private Catholic school in Birmingham, where the number of black students was also tiny and he was the first black football player. In the 1972 Auburn football media guide, there are photographs of only two black football players–Gossom and Owens. “The skywriters tour [sportswriters and broadcasters] used to come around. They went to all the SEC campuses. They came to Auburn in ’72 and they asked Coach Jordan, I’ll never forget this,” he laughs, “how many black guys were on the team. Coach Jordan said, ‘Well, you know, we don’t count them as black guys and white guys, they’re all Auburn guys.’ So, I managed to work my way behind Coach and held up two fingers. I’ll tell you how many—two.” For Gossom, it was a joke at the time, but playing football in that era at Auburn wasn’t easy for black players, he says. “I think the most difficult thing is when you’re that young, you don’t know anything about life. Having to carry the social baggage of all the black people in Alabama and all the Auburn people in Alabama was just a tremendous burden. You couldn’t just go out and play football. You were aware everybody was watching you. The black guys who worked for buildings and grounds would sit on these little wooden stands in the corner of the stadium right where we went in and out of the locker room. As we passed them, it was like all their hopes and dreams were in us. And sometimes that was too much.”

He is truly a Renaissance man, redefined. The three-year letterman in Auburn football has been a public relations executive, entrepreneur, and is now a sucphoto courtesy of AU Photographic Services cessful television and film actor. The first black athlete to letter and graduate from Gossom said even though neither Harris Auburn [B.A. in communications], he has never forgotten his expenor Owens graduated from Auburn, they were a support system for riences in and out of athletics. “I think we had 30 black kids when I him. “James and Henry will always be very special in my life because started in 1970, maybe 13,000 students. There’s always resistance to they really took care of me. I liked school so I was the first black guy cultural change. Some of the attitude was, ‘OK, we’ve let you in here to graduate. Then the guys behind me, Secedrick McIntyre, Mitzi so now just be grateful you’re here and shut up. Jackson, and Reese McCall graduated. For a period of time, every black guy who went through there graduated.” “There were no black instructors, there were no black football assistants. There was no black anything other than those 30 kids and the janitors. Things on the field were cool. We won and lost as a team. We won a lot. But after the games when the guys all went off to the frat parties and such, there was nothing for us to do.” Of course,

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Even though his last game as a Tiger was in the 1974 Gator Bowl, he still gets recognized by Auburn fans. “Last year, I was walking through the LA airport, and whenever anybody calls me Thomas, I know it’s from college. This guy says, ‘Thomas Gossom.’ And I

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turned around and he said, ‘Do you remember the first time Auburn played Tennessee in Auburn?’ Gossom played in that game in 1974. “He told me he was 10 at the time and that after the game, I had given him my chin strap and sweat band. He said he still had them. People don’t let you forget. That’s a good thing.” One play involving Gossom that will be forever burned into the collective memories of Auburn football fans came in the third quarter of the 1974 Auburn-Alabama game. Alabama came into the game ranked No. 2 with a 10-0 record, while Auburn was 9-1 and ranked No. 7. Bama led 17-6 in the third quarter when Auburn quarterback Phil Gargis lofted a pass down the sideline to Gossom, who caught it and streaked into the end zone for an apparent touchdown. The only problem was that Gossom had been shoved out of bounds before he came back in bounds and caught the ball. “We had put that play in just for [Alabama defensive back] Mike Washington,” he says. “We ran the play into the boundary, which was out and up on Mike, and the play worked perfectly. But when Mike was beat, he lunged at me and I bent backwards and I’m told my toe came down on the line. I caught the ball and went in to score. We were getting ready to kick the extra point and then all this confusion broke out and Shug went ballistic. People always remember that play.” Gossom got a scare in 1974 when it appeared his football career might be over when he was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. After further testing, it turned out he only had sickle cell trait. “Coach Jordan made sure I got the best medical care.” He got out of the hospital in time for the Tigers’ seasonopener at Legion Field against Oregon State. “The guys cheered when I walked into the locker room. Coach [Doug] Barfield [the offensive coordinator] called my number on the first play.” Gossom came to Auburn without a scholarship in 1970, after briefly considering walking on at Alabama. He admits that former John Carroll star Pat Sullivan was a major influence on his choice of schools. But he was the fastest freshman among all the Tiger players–scholarship or not–and performed well enough as a freshman to earn a scholarship the next year. Of his relationship with Jordan during his years as a player, Gossom says, “I didn’t have one. My relationship with Coach Jordan was one of, first of all, a little fear,” he said. “I mean, he was Coach Jordan. I didn’t think I could sit with him and talk eyeball to eyeball. Secondly, in my conversations with him, he was in charge. I wish we could have been closer. I wish I could have gotten to know him better. I think as a leader, and as a humble man, there were a lot of things to be learned from him. I ran into him at a ballgame in Birmingham after he’d retired and he gave me his home phone number. He told me I was one of his boys and to call him if I needed him. That meant a lot.”

FILMS XXX: State of the Union Jeepers Creepers 2 Fight Club Senseless The Chamber Rebel Lover MOVIES FOR TELEVISION Miracle in the Woods, CBS/PK Miss Evers’ Boys, HBO Following Her Heart, NBC Murder in Mississippi, NBC TELEVISION Jack & Bobby, WB The District, CBS Without a Trace, CBS My Wife & Kids, ABC Touched by an Angel, CBS The Court, ABC/ John Wells Family Law, CBS The West Wing, NBC Providence, NBC Profiler, NBC City of Angels, CBS/ Boccho ER, NBC Chicago Hope, CBS/ David Kelly Becker, CBS NYPD Blue, ABC/ Boccho In the Heat of the Night, MGM-UA Nothing Sacred, ABC I’ll Fly Away, NBC/ Lorimar Savannah, Spelling STAGE Speak of Me As I Am Ali My Children! My Africa! I’m Not Rappaport Glengary Glen Ross A Soldier’s Play Master Harold & The Boys American Buffalo Fences Guys and Dolls

Gossom credits Barfield with convincing him to stay for his senior year at Auburn. After the 1973 Sun Bowl in which he caught two touchdown passes, he considered bypassing his

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senior year and playing football in the Canadian Football League. “Coach Barfield sat with me on the bus ride,” he recalls. “He told me there were rumors he might be the offensive coordinator the next year and if he was, he wanted me on the team. “And so, I had that kind of relationship with Coach Barfield and have a tremendous amount of respect for him today. I could talk to him and he would talk to me. He told me during one of our talks that I was the pioneer and that it wasn’t going to be easy. At least having somebody recognize it and express it gave me the strength to go forward. I love coach Barfield today.” After getting his degree at Auburn, he decided to try his hand at pro football. He was drafted by the New England Patriots, but decided to sign with the new World League team in Birmingham. He later signed with the Buffalo Bills, but was the team’s final cut. With his football-playing days over, Gossom was forced to turn to real life—finding a job. With his outgoing personality and communications degree from Auburn, that wasn’t a problem. He soon landed a job in news at a Birmingham television station. It was there he decided to change his first name from Thomas to Thom. “One of the first things I tried to do was distance myself from football so I wouldn’t be thought of as a football player the rest of my life. So I just used ‘Thom’ with the news and that’s what I use now. It was basically a psychological thing for me. And then I started using it as an actor and TV Guide just kept using it.” From TV news, Gossom went on to public relations work with BellSouth in Birmingham and earned his master’s degree from the University of Montevallo. In 1987, he left BellSouth to start his own company, Thom Gossom Communications, where BellSouth and Alabama Gas Corp. were among his major clients. In 1998, he and his wife, Joyce, founded jTG Consulting, a merger of their companies.

pany, he landed a role in a made-for-TV movie in Savannah, Ga., with veteran actor Karl Mauldin, entitled “My Father, My Son.” And the role on “Heat of the Night” came along about the same time. He did two or three episodes a year for the next seven years. “Then about 1996, I did ‘Miss Evers Boys’ for HBO, and I played one of the leads. “Miss Evers Boys” was one of the first major films for HBO and was a major award winner after it premiered in 1998.” Since then, he has flown back and forth between his Florida home and the West Coast for various projects. “My wife just earned her doctorate in education. She now works for the University of West Florida. We’ve wound the business down to where I do a lot of speeches, appearances, those kinds of things,” he said. “I still love to write. I’ve moved my business into an entertainment company now and we’re developing a couple of projects. One is our son Dixson’s demo CD. He’s into hip hop. He’s pretty good, too.”

Gossom with Luther Vandross and Della Reese (left photo); with James Earl Jones (right photo)

While working in Birmingham, he began to get interested in acting. He was 29 when he got roles in a couple of plays. “Man, it was great. It was a small theater and that same exhilaration of playing football, but with 60,000 fewer people in the audience. I loved it.” Gossom says one of the reasons he left BellSouth was that his acting career was beginning to interfere with his job. While working for the comWINTER 2005

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His favorite character was Big Ben Washington in “Miss Evers Boys,” the true story of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. “Then I would have to say ‘NYPD Blue,’ as far as pure acting goes when I played a big, homeless mute accused of molesting and killing a child and I had to communicate through my eyes.

Gossom as Big Ben Washington in “Miss Evers Boys.”

“It’s a really difficult thing to do a mute because you have to give the other actor something to work off, and so there was a little bit of trepidation on the part of Dennis Franz. Dennis [one of the series’ lead actors] was a little uneasy about it, but once we started working, our chemistry clicked. I lost myself in this guy. His name was Israel. I go into auditions now and casting people still congratulate me on it. So that was special.” Like a lot of things in Gossom’s life.

“I was the first one in my family to go to college. I walked on at Auburn and earned a scholarship. So I think Auburn was a springboard for me. What I got out of that experience was that there was nothing I couldn’t attempt to do.” Gossom says he wants to help children through the Boys and Girls Club in Fort Walton Beach and he plans to write a book about his experiences as a football player at Auburn, tentatively titled, Walk-On. He will focus on entertainment for a while, but not forever. “One of the talks I give is titled, ‘The Four Quarters of Life.’ I think I’ve got about a quarter and a half left in me.”

“I was the first

one in my family to go to college. I walked on at Auburn and earned a scholarship. So I think Auburn was a springboard for me. What I got out of that experience was that there was nothing I couldn’t attempt to do.” Auburn Magazine

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photography by Shannon Hankes

by Lauren Arieux ‘05

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If your bookshelf is in need of some new Auburn books, you’ve come to the right place. Auburn authors turned out a stack of new fiction and non-fiction last year on topics ranging from football to crime to history and self-help. So pick your favorites and enjoy!

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Cadillac Beach by Tim Dorsey ’83

Certifiable nutcase Serge A. Storms and Lenny, his spacey sidekick, are back again in Tim Dorsey’s sixth screwball crime-spree novel, this time on the trail of a stash of missing gems. Get ready for a wild ride as Serge escapes from Florida’s state psychiatric hospital and heads for Miami. Obsessed with the idea of clearing up the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s alleged suicide, Serge gets off to a rocky start when he attracts the interest of the mob and the Feds. The novel chronicles the murders of his grandfather’s old cronies as Serge tracks the old man’s movements at the time of an infamous gem heist and the return of the most famous of the stolen stones. This latest episode of Florida’s hottest freak show will delight anyone who enjoys a good mystery while laughing out loud at the same time. www.timdorsey.com

The Hit by Jere Hoar ’51

Jere Hoar’s award-winning debut novel tells the story of the downward spiral of Luke Carr, a Vietnam War veteran and a mental patient at a VA hospital in Mississippi. In a series of notebooks written while holed up in his hospital room, Carr tells the tale of his downfall—the passion, betrayal, and a perfect crime gone wrong. Days before leaving for Vietnam, Carr lost the only woman he’d ever loved. He returns from the war to a solitary existence, his only company, a bird dog named

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Adel. Beneath this cover, Carr plans the perfect, foolproof crime. Mix this with rekindled passions and an anonymous phone call asking him to carry out a “hit,” and the reader gets a series of events as unpredictable as they are deadly. Winner of the Independent Publisher Award for the best mystery/thriller/suspense novel, The Hit has won so much national acclaim that best-selling novelist John Grisham says he wishes he’d written it himself. www.olemiss.edu/mwp/dir/hoar_jere/

Down Through the Years by Rich Donnell ’77

A must-have addition to the collection of any Auburn fan, Down Through The Years: Great Quotations on Auburn Football contains some 350 quotations from former and current coaches and players at AU, dating back to the beginning of Auburn football in 1892 and continuing to the present day. Coaches and players speak of their affection for Auburn and their teammates, the meaning of discipline and faith, and about great seasons and great games. From coaches John Heisman to Shug Jordan to Pat Dye to Tommy Tuberville and from players Jimmy Hitchcock to Tucker Frederickson to Pat Sullivan to Bo Jackson to Cadillac Williams, this book vividly brings their experiences to life and tells the story of Auburn football through the words of the people who lived it.

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Practical Energy Cost Reduction For The Home by Paul S. Hayden ’65

Hayden believes homeowners in a variety of climates can lower their energy costs just by implementing a few projects around the house—great news considering the high cost of energy these days. Insisting that homeowners should never have to lower their thermostats, he has documented projects that make the biggest impact on home energy savings and condensed them into a handbook for anyone interested in saving as much 50 percent on their energy bills. Hayden’s book is written for homeowners who’d like to substantially reduce energy costs without sacrificing comfort, and for those who’d like to increase the size of their homes, but face major upgrades to their heating and cooling systems. So if you find yourself in a mood to save money on energy this year, this book’s for you. www.energycostreduction.com

The SEC Team of the ‘80s: Auburn Football 1980-1989 by Landon Thomas ’89

Another book for AU football lovers, The SEC Team of the ’80s: Auburn Football 1980-1989 provides an in-depth look at a decade in which Auburn was considered the best football program in the Southeastern Conference. Detailed accounts and illustrated history are included as the book chronicles all 86 AU victories and both ties during the 1980s, featuring more than 350 color photos of the greatest games and best players in Auburn football history. These were the days in which Auburn graduated celebrated tailback and 1985 Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson and defensive tackle Tracy Rocker, 1988 winner of both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy. Whether it’s Jackson, the Sugar Bowl, Rocker, or the first-ever Iron Bowl in Auburn, Thomas’ book relives every Auburn celebration during the winningest decade in school history.

Moments of Forever by Dr. James Ian (Jim) Walter ’67

In memoirs deemed “too naughty for a priest to write,” Walter takes a long, thoughtful look at the defining moments of his life with insight, wit, and a refreshing candor. After his ordination as a priest, Walter served two Episcopal parishes in Alabama and then earned a doctoral degree that led to a 25year career as executive director of the East Alabama Mental Health Center in Auburn. Since 1995, he has been a member of the clergy of St. John’s in Montgomery. Recording his inspirational story with earthy eloquence, Walter “has a gift for looking straight at life without blinking,” says Jerry Brown, former AU journalism head, now dean of the University of Montana’s School of Journalism. Brown adds, “he’s frank, he’s funny,” but also “humble and affectionate.” Moments of Forever is a delightful read. webpages.charter.net/moments/

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Hello Aubie! by Aimee Aryal; illustrated by Danny Moore ‘03

Written for children, but enjoyable for anyone with an affection for Auburn’s beloved tiger, Hello Aubie! is a delight to read. Beautifully illustrated, the book tells the story of Aubie’s walks around AU’s campus, where he meets professors, students, and even Coach Tommy Tuberville. Follow him as he stops at such beloved landmarks as Samford Hall, University Chapel, Hargis Hall, and Foy Student Union, and cheer with him as he ends his journey at Jordan-Hare just as the eagle begins its circle around the stadium. The Tigers are victorious, of course, and Aubie ends his adventure by rolling Toomer’s Corner and settling down for a good night’s sleep. This fun read is a perfect addition to any Auburn fan’s book collection. www.mascotbooks.com

Bad News for McEnroe: Blood, Sweat, and Backhands with John, Jimmy, Ilie, Ivan, Bjorn, and Vitas by Bill Scanlon, Cathy Long, and Sonny Long ’82

Bad News for McEnroe is a chronicle of the “Golden Era” of men’s tennis, a period in which Scanlon became the only professional to achieve a Golden Set (not giving up a single point), along with the distinction of being the only player tennis legend John McEnroe says he ever disliked. In this revealing book, Sonny Long ’82 helps Scanlon narrate the story of the feud between himself and McEnroe that began when they were teenagers. The book also

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features such notable players as Guillermo Vilas, Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase, and Jimmy Connors—all of whom Scanlon played and knew intimately. From locker room fights to on-court breakdowns and blow-ups, this tell-all memoir provides a fascinating look at the “good old days” of tennis and some of its most colorful players through the eyes of a true insider. www.sonnylong.com

Thank You Brain, For All You Remember (What You Forgot Was My Fault) by W. R. (Bill) Klemm ’58, DVM

Do you spend hours a week searching for your keys, only to find them in your purse or your pocket? Do you have a knack for remembering names, but not faces or vice versa? Or do you have a child who needs help memorizing the dates of historical events for school? If this sounds like you, have no fear, because Klemm (a.k.a. the “Memory Medic”) has a solution for you. A professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M, he has spent more than 40 years studying the brain and has recorded his findings in this helpful book that includes more than 150 ways to improve memory for people of all ages and in all stages of life. webspace4me.net/~wklemm/

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On Eagle’s Wings, the Life of Eddie Staub ’78 by John Vardeman

An inspiring book sure to touch your heart, On Eagle’s Wings tells the compelling story of two young men from two very different worlds— Eddie Staub and Rodney Hudgins—whose lives are linked by the 1985 founding of Eagle Ranch, one of the nation’s most progressive therapeutic Christian homes for needy children. The founder of the home is Staub, a former AU baseball player with deep compassion for children. Hudgins was an abused child, beaten and nearly killed by his own father. Locked in separate struggles, one to realize a seemingly impossible dream and the other to break free from the pain of his life, the two men learn their prayers can be answered with a little determination and the help of a friend. The book is an uplifting affirmation of the power of friendship and compassion, perseverance, and faith.

Alabama in the Twentieth Century by Wayne Flynt

Written by accomplished Alabama historian and AU Distinguished University Professor Flynt, this book offers something for critics and admirers of the state. Flynt, who has lived in the state for 60 of the 100 years detailed in his book, presents an unblinking, scholarly look at the best and the worst in Alabama’s history. He calls attention, for example, the state’s controversial 1901 constitution, but also credits Alabama for its remarkable number of military heroes and gifted athletes, its astounding array of writers, folk artists,

and musicians, and its haunting beauty despite years of industrial abuse. In Flynt’s characteristic descriptive and engaging writing style, the author describes Alabama as a parent would a child—with love, admiration, and honest criticism. The book is an indispensable addition to the shelves of history buffs, Southerners, and anyone with a special place in their heart for this deep South state. cla.auburn.edu/history/bios/flynt.htm

Dirty South by Ace Atkins ’94 Take a ride with author Atkins to the seamy side of New Orleans—far from the neon of Bourbon Street—to see what life in the Big Easy is all about. This richly atmospheric crime drama is the fourth installment in Atkins’s New Orleans-based series. Fans of the Delta blues will appreciate the author’s deep musical knowledge— protagonist Nick Travers teaches blues history at Tulane in his spare time, and, like Atkins himself, is a former football player. He’d much rather watch the Louisiana rain and listen to old Muddy Waters records, but when a former teammate from the New Orleans Saints asks him to help find $700,000 taken from a rap prodigy, Travers can’t turn him down. The events that follow serve up a sumptuous mix of betrayal, revenge, and trust, spiced lavishly with colorful local dialect and Southern drawl. Bon appetit! www.aceatkins.com

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These Tigers Made the Case That 13-0 Adds Up to No. 1 by Lars Anderson, Sports Illustrated The topic was expectations, a subject that Tommy Tuberville had thought about at length over the previous year. Sitting in his office one day last July, Tuberville leaned back in his chair, glanced out the window at the sticky summer afternoon, then looked back at his guest and smiled as slyly as a man who’s drawn four aces in a game of poker. The words proceeded to drip out of his mouth in his molasses-slow Southern drawl. “I love the fact that we’re not on the national radar right now,” Tuberville said of his team, which had begun the season ranked 17th in the Associated Press poll. “Last year at the beginning of the season some people picked us to win it all, and we believed all the good things that people were writing about us. But we don’t have that problem this year. Listen, I think we might have something real, real special here. Not that anybody’s writing about it.” Indeed, at the start of the season, Auburn seemed about as likely to go undefeated as the woebegone Army Black Knights. Back then Tuberville was barely clinging to his job. His team had finished a disappointing 7-5 in 2003 and played in one of the least sexy postseason games of the holiday season, the Music City Bowl. Tuberville’s ’03 team underachieved – even he admits that – and the coach knew that The Plains was abuzz with talk that he would be fired in ’04 if the season turned sour. “I had turned in my application at Wal-Mart to become a greeter,” Tuberville joked recently. What’s more, the Tigers had boldfaced question marks on both sides of the ball before the 2004 season kicked off. Could red-shirt senior quarterback Jason Campbell, who in ’04 would be coached by his Editor ’s Note: Wow! What a season! 13-0 for Coach Tommy Tuberville’s Auburn Tigers! And though thousands of words were written about the Tigers in 2004-05, we thought nobody did it better than Sports Illustrated in its special Commemorative Edition, The Perfect Season. The following is a reprint from that publication [with permission from SI] and the fantastic photography of Todd J. Van Emst. Enjoy!

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fourth offensive coordinator (Al Borges) in five years, finally shed his reputation for choking in big games? Could senior running backs Carnell (Cadillac) Williams and Ronnie (Hummer) Brown, both of whom most likely would have been early picks in the 2004 NFL draft had they opted not to return to school, coexist in Borges’s version of the West Coast offense? And could Auburn’s defense, which had lost three starters to the NFL, stop anyone? So many questions. But judging by his body language back on that quiet summer afternoon in his office, Tuberville clearly sensed that he had all the answers. And, sure enough, a dream season unfolded. Under the guidance of Borges, Campbell blossomed into a star, perhaps making more clutch throws at key moments than any other quarterback in the nation. Borges also found creative ways to get Williams and Brown on the field at the same time. Borges interchanged his star runners at tailback, fullback, slotback and even wide receiver, and they wound up forming the deadliest one-two combo in the country. Cadillac and Hummer powered the offense, combining to rush for 2,164 yards and catch 55 passes for 465 yards. “Ain’t nobody better than me and Carnell,” says Brown. “I’d say we’re unstoppable,” says Williams. And what about Auburn’s defense? During his 24-year college coaching career Tuberville has cultivated a reputation for being a stout defensive coach. So it really shouldn’t be surprising that the Tiger’s D – a smallish, quick unit bereft of stars other than All-America cornerback Carlos Rogers – finished the season leading the country in fewest points surrendered (11.3 per game) and fifth in total defense (269.5 yards per game.) No wonder Tigers defensive coordinator Gene Chizik was named a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach. Boasting a balanced offense and a swarming defense, the Tigers rolled to the SEC championship game, where they beat Tennessee 3828. They amassed a 12-0 record – they were the first SEC team to go undefeated since the Volunteers in 1998 – but largely because of what was regarded as a weak nonconference schedule, Auburn became the first team from a major conference to go undefeated and still be shut out of the national championship game. USC and Oklahoma edged Auburn in the BCS rankings to earn invitations to the Orange Bowl, while the Tigers were forced to play Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, where they held on for a 16 – 13 victory over the Hokies to cap their first undefeated season since 1993. (That year Auburn, which at the time was on probation and not eligible to play in a bowl, thus WINTER 2005

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missing any chance at the national championship, went 11-0.) “It’s disappointing,” said Tuberville about being left out of the national championship game. “An undefeated season happens once or twice in a lifetime, if you’re lucky. But most of the talk has been about polls and rankings rather than what we have accomplished.” Still, it was a season of redemption for Tuberville. Not only did he guide the Tigers to more victories in a single season than any other squad in school history, but he also cemented his status as one of the elite coaches in the college game. Consider: After six seasons on The Plains, Tuberville owns the school’s highest winning percentage (68.0% , higher than even legendary coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan’s 67.5); he has led the Tigers to at least a share of the hypercompetitive SEC Western Division championship in four of the past five years; and he has shepherded his team to five straight bowl games. Not bad for a coach who was nearly canned just 13 months ago. “We all want to win and have a great season for Coach Tuberville,” Brown said one day last summer, more than a month before the ’04 season kicked off. “You watch: We’re all going to rally around him. It’s going to be a memorable season.” For Auburn fans it wasn’t just memorable, it was perfect, BCS be damned.

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The AU Bookstore and the Auburn Athletic Department offer game highlights from this season’s sporting events. Order photos by visiting

www.aubookstore.com/gamepics.asp Reprinted by permission of Time Inc. “Indisputably Perfect,” by Lars Anderson, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED PRESENTS THE PERFECT SEASON COMMEMORATIVE EDITION, January 14, 2005. ©Time Inc. 2005. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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1/20/05 6:00:23 PM

Auburn Magazine Winter 2005  

A League of His Own: Thom Gossom '75

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