AUBURN, Ala. — For my 1,774th and final byline at SEC Country, I am sharing some of my favorite stories from my time as part of the Auburn coverage team here.
Before we get to the list, let me say thank you to anyone who followed our coverage for the last two sports seasons. Lauren Shute, Benjamin Wolk and I created our own brand of Auburn coverage here at SEC Country, and we couldn’t have done it for as long as we did without the support of you, the reader. The feedback was mostly fun, and we definitely felt the love. This was a blast.
And it wouldn’t have been such a blast for me if it weren’t for Lauren and Ben. These are the two best co-workers I’ve ever had. They’re awesome writers and even better people. Although we won’t be working together, the bond that we’ve created over the last two years will last a lifetime. Y’all are the best.
I wanted to pick the best header photo for this story, so I picked the best photo I took during the one time Ben let me use his camera. It’s fitting that it’s one of Kerryon Johnson, the best player I covered during my time here.
Now, let’s get to the list.
Ferg’s Film Room
When I first came in contact about a job covering Auburn for SEC Country through Ken Bradley — a 5-star editor whom I would run through several brick walls for if he asked me — one of the key points we discussed was doing something that could stand out on the beat.
That’s where Ferg’s Film Room began. I wanted to get in-depth with the strategy and the statistics of Auburn football. The grind of daily beat writer life makes it hard to do these, but I wanted to take a chance and see how they worked. These stories consumed a lot of hours during busy weekends, and I’m glad Ken gave me the go-ahead to focus on them late Sundays and into the early Monday hours.
This is what I wanted to bring to the beat, and I’m glad readers enjoyed them as much as they did. Although they were never the click-friendliest stories, I loved putting them together and learning more about the game through it all. Here were my five favorite Film Rooms from the 2017 season.
- Auburn’s offense learned lessons from losses, and proved it in Iron Bowl
- How Auburn’s play calls kept Georgia guessing on all 4 touchdowns
- The ‘3 Es’ that led Auburn to a rout over Mississippi State
- How Auburn’s offense kept its foot on the gas vs. Arkansas
- Who was at fault for Auburn’s 11 sacks vs. Clemson
Spending a day in Dooly County, Ga., to talk with the people who set Montravius Adams on the right path to stardom was quite an experience. You could feel how a small town was behind the former supernova of a recruit who later became an NFL draft pick.
I’m putting this on here solely because Woodrow Grady, Ryan Davis’ 7-on-7 coach back home in the Tampa area, was by far the best interview I’ve ever had. I wish I could publish the entire transcript of our conversation.
John Samuel Shenker is an incredible story. He bet on himself by turning down a baseball scholarship at Auburn and transferring from a small private school to one of the biggest public schools in Georgia — all for a one-season shot at getting recruited to play football. It worked.
This was my first Next Generation feature at SEC Country. Everything about Chandler Wooten — his film, his accolades, his offer sheet — didn’t seem to match his middle-of-the-road 3-star recruiting ranking. When I talked with him at his high school, you could tell he was ready to prove why so many people thought he was was underrated.
This is a short feature, but it is probably my favorite. When I first heard about Anfernee McLemore getting to see his younger siblings for the first time during Auburn’s trip to California for the NCAA Tournament, I knew that story had to be written. The interview I had with the injured McLemore about it is one I’ll always remember.
The best of the rest
Unlike several other excellent writers on the Auburn beat, I’m not good on deadline. But I was supposed to have some sort of column up shortly after Bruce Pearl’s press conference on the night Auburn basketball used a seven-man rotation to beat Alabama by 19 points. This was the result.
Auburn’s Week 1 matchup against Georgia Southern last season was a good time to look back at the life of Erk Russell. The man who built the Eagles program graduated from Auburn, and it was cool to see both fan bases share this story leading up to kickoff.
Sometimes, you just find the perfect photo for your headline.
I can’t leave out the most fun I had answering a Question of the Day — which included me twisting it into a ridiculous premise. This is serious journalism, y’all. (Also, make sure you follow @Aubielicious.)
I’ll end with a postgame column from the last Auburn win inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Even though the Tigers lost to Georgia and UCF to end the season, what happened last November still rings true. Gus Malzahn has Auburn in a spot to compete with the best of the best in college football.
The first Auburn football home game I covered for SEC Country was Auburn’s jumbled mess of a loss against eventual national champion Clemson. The last one I covered was an emphatic win against eventual national champion Alabama. Fans shouldn’t expect a championship every season, but the Tigers have the stability and the talent to stay in the hunt for one for the next several Novembers.