AUBURN, Ala. — Jack Conradson has been an Auburn fan his entire life. His mom was pregnant with him when Auburn beat Alabama with the “Kick Six” in the 2013 Iron Bowl. The Auburn tradition has been passed down through generations and 2-year-old Jack is the youngest to join the club.
“He really didn’t have a choice,” said Jack’s mother, Katy Conradson. “He could say ‘War Eagle’ when he first started talking. It’s crazy to take him around big crowds and stuff, but he loves football games, baseball games and basketball games, he loves it all.”
Wearing a jersey and a mini tiger tail, Jack was one of thousands of fans at the Auburn Athletics complex for the team’s annual fan day Sunday. Despite a recent history filled with memorable moments and unexpected disappointment, Auburn football has remained an experience that families continue to share.
Bill Hammock grew up on College Street, went to Auburn High School and graduated from Auburn University in 1975. He was sitting on the 50-yard line in the upper deck when Auburn beat Alabama in Jordan-Hare in 2013. Tiger football has changed since he started watching in the 1950s, but he wouldn’t trade his experiences for anything.
“I can get past the downs very easily, absolutely, and you live with the ups,” Hammock said. “You talk about those and cherish those. Nothing like being in the stadium for the one second kick.”
Hammock passed the Tiger fandom down to his son, Will, who gifted it to his own children. The elder Hammock, of course, played a big role (a run to the bookstore to purchase orange and blue gear was mandatory before arriving at fan day).
“It’s been fun. I started brainwashing them as soon as they could listen and talk,” Hammock said.
Will Hammock began following Auburn in the early 80s — a decade filled with SEC titles (1983, 1987, 1988-89). At first, he didn’t understand the program might not have success every year.
“Once you have some down years you kind of get used to it,” Hammock said. “You kind of get used to the losing. I’d rather have the really, really good years and then the down years then just be 9-4 or 8-3 every year, though.”
Other fans are less deliberate with their approach, but thrilled when their kids gravitate to the team. Mike Cofield’s childhood friend was a defensive lineman for Auburn in the early 80s and Cofield, a Georgia-native and former state trooper, has been an Auburn fan for nearly 30 years. His 7-year-old son Brody patiently waited in line to meet defensive lineman Montravius Adams.
“I have a picture of him with a little Auburn diaper on,” Cofield said. “But he loves doing what dad likes to do, so I mean I don’t think he’s really been brainwashed. Your kids become who you are is what they say.”
That was the case with Will Lawrence. Will became an Auburn fan when his family moved to Alabama seven years ago, and now is a sophomore at the university.
“During the down years you find out who the real fans are, it’s easy to be a bandwagon fan,” Lawrence said. “It’s also made the higher moments even greater because we’ve always been the underdog or the comeback kid, so it’s been exciting.”
Layla Pelt, 3, was overcome with excitement waiting in line to meet senior QB Jeremy Johnson and jumped to hug him when she arrived at the front of the line. Her mom, Jessica, has been an Auburn fan since she was a little girl, too. Their love for Auburn football is a shared pastime.
“Layla could sing the fight song when she was 2 years old,” Jessica said. “It’s been fun. No matter what the season is like the fan base is always going to have a good time and the tailgating is wonderful. Win or lose, it’s great to be an Auburn Tiger.”