Editor’s note: It was 54 years ago this summer that a fresh-faced kid from south Alabama was sports editor of The Auburn Plainsman. Those were far different times in college football. The game had not turned into the huge commercial ventures they are today. Coaches did not get paid millions of dollars a year. Players did not spend 365 days a year thinking of only football. Tickets cost less than $10 a game. There were no sports channels on TV. But us Auburn fans still screamed “War Eagle” after touchdowns and the thrill of winning was no less than it is today. That fresh-faced kid is now waiting on his 77th birthday and on occasions such as this, can not help but revert to what he did in simpler times.
In a storybook ending, the Auburn Tigers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and beat the University of Oregon 27-21 to open their 2019 football season in Arlington, TX. Improbably, their victory was led by a quarterback who was wearing an Auburn uniform for the first time in his life.
Well, officially at least. Truth is, quarterback Bo Nix has worn orange and blue his entire life. This is understandable given that his dad, Pat Nix, also played quarterback for Auburn and his grandfather, Conrad Nix, went to Auburn as well. And football is the Nix family business. Now retired, Conrad was a celebrated high school coach in both Alabama and Georgia, winning 260 games in 27 seasons he coached in Georgia, including two state championships.
Pat won a state championship in 2017 coaching Pinson Valley to an undefeated season. Bo was his quarterback–and one of the most-coveted high school quarterbacks in all the land.. Some even said THE most coveted. And while college recruiters from far and wide made visits to Pinson Valley, there was never really any doubt that Bo would suit up in orange and blue.
After all, his daddy became an Auburn legend in the 1993 Iron Bowl when he came off the bench to replace injured QB Stan White and immediately threw a dramatic TD pass to Frank Sanders to lead Auburn to a 22-14 win over Bama on the way to an undefeated season. That was the day “Nix to Sanders” became part of Auburn folklore.
No doubt Bo played out that same moment in a 1,000 backyard football moments growing up. It’s just what boys do.
However, not even the most rabid Auburn fan could imagine Bo replicating such an iconic moment in his very first game in orange and blue. But to prove that fairy tales really do come true, with the game clock ticking toward zero last Saturday night and his team trailing by two points, Bo Nix, the son of Pat and the grandson of Conrad, threw a pass to Seth Williams who caught it at the two-yard line and tumbled backwards into the end zone.
The stadium, just outside of Dallas and a monument to the opulence that shrouds the games I once watched while a student at Auburn, erupted.
Somehow their team, which looked totally outclassed early in the game, had amazingly willed itself to a win. A defense, expected to be among the nation’s best according to all the pundits, woke up and played like it was coached to do the second half. The offense was never overwhelming, but they continued to do what had to be done.
And at the end of the day, a little boy’s dreams came true and Nix to Sanders was replaced by Nix to Williams.