AUBURN, Ala. — Casey Dunn might have been wearing the crimson and white gear of an Alabama fan, but he was amazed with what he saw from Auburn football in the 2010 Iron Bowl.
Dunn, who was still several years away from graduating high school, sat with his father and watched Cam Newton lead Auburn to a comeback victory over Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tigers’ dreams of a perfect season were still alive, and Dunn couldn’t believe it.
“That was fun,” Dunn said. “We had great seats. It was a lot of fun to watch. That comeback was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.”
Seven years later, the Trussville, Ala., native will get to play in his first and only Iron Bowl — this time, as a member of the rival Auburn Tigers.
But Dunn’s journey from Alabama fan to Auburn player wasn’t as cut and dry as others on the Tigers’ roster, such as freshman offensive tackle Austin Troxell.
Dunn started his career at FCS school Jacksonville State, where he made a name for himself as a two-time All-American. He played well in a 2015 upset bid at Auburn and held his own against LSU.
“He was a really good player at Jacksonville State, and he’s come in here and held his own,” Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said earlier this month. “At Jacksonville, they played against LSU and us, so he’s proved himself against top competition.”
Dunn wasn’t immediately thrust into the starting lineup when he arrived at Auburn as a graduate transfer this summer. He was the “sixth man” on Herb Hand’s offensive line, and Auburn called him into action during Week 3 against Mercer when Darius James suffered a neck injury.
Then Dunn suffered an injury of his own a few weeks later in a loss to LSU. The knee injury kept him away from the starting lineup against Arkansas, but he was determined to bounce back.
“He’s playing at a high level, and it’s really amazing,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He had a pretty good injury against LSU, and came back in that game and couldn’t finish the game. The way he’s recovered is amazing. He’s a tough young man.”
Auburn called on him again in the second quarter of the Texas A&M game, when two starting linemen weren’t able to play through injuries. Back in the center of a reshuffled offensive line, Dunn thrived.
A week later, he starred in a 40-17 beatdown of No. 1 Georgia and earned the title of the SEC’s offensive lineman of the week.
“His toughness is unbelievable,” Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham said. “Starting with the LSU game, when he hurt his knee and just moving forward, he’s shown a lot of toughness this season. It’s just a testament to him and how hard he’s worked.”
Dunn says he is fine now, but he admits the knee injury is “as good as it’ll get” at this point in the season.
Besides, nothing is going to stop Dunn from realizing the dream of so many football players in the state of Alabama — playing in the Iron Bowl, a game he watched religiously growing up.
This time, Dunn and his father will be wearing Auburn’s orange and blue inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The center of the Tigers’ resurgent line is ready to take on a powerhouse Alabama team and try to make history.
“I mean, they’ve got a dynasty over there,” Dunn said. “You know what you’re coming up against every year. Arguably one of the best teams in the nation every year. It’s very exciting.
“It’s going to be exciting and fun to prepare for it. We’re planning on getting after it next Saturday.”