On Nov. 13, 1971, a perfect autumn football Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan clinched the Heisman Trophy. I was there in the press box covering the game in my former journalistic life for the daily newspaper in Florence.
On Nov. 13, 2010, another perfect autumn day, I sat in the press box at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, perhaps watching another Auburn quarterback nail down the Heisman award with a performance equal to, if not better than, the one I witnessed 39 years ago.
The 1971 game came at a time when both Auburn and Georgia were unbeaten and were in contention for the national championship. Auburn was ranked sixth, Georgia eighth, and the showdown in Athens, like the one last Saturday in Auburn, was of significant national interest.
Georgia coach Vince Dooley, an Auburn alumnus, remembers his 1971 team as one of the best he had ever coached. Although they had allowed 25 points to Oregon State in their opening game, Georgia had given up just four touchdowns in their next eight games.
Sullivan finished the game with 14 for 24 in passing for 248 yards and four touchdowns as Auburn demolished the Bulldogs 35-20. “We were beaten by the best quarterback I’ve ever seen,” Dooley, a former Auburn quarterback himself, said after the game. “Sullivan was a super player having a super day, and if Sullivan is Superman, then (Tiger receiver) Terry Beasley is Boy Wonder,” Dooley added.
“Underneath that 7 is an S,” Sports
headlined its report on the game, adding that Sullivan “can do everything but leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
After the game Shug Jordan, the late Auburn coach, snapped back when someone suggested that Sullivan might not win the Heisman Trophy. “Maybe not, but if someone else does get it, I’ll bet he’s Christ reincarnated.” Sports Illustrated
reported that after the comment a look of horror crossed Shug’s face, and he held up his hand. “Hold it. I’m a religious man and now I’ll be up all night saying Hail Marys. Maybe I had better say that if someone else gets it, he’ll have to be, ah, magnificent.”
As good as Pat Sullivan was there’s an Auburn quarterback who led Auburn over Georgia 39 years-to-the-day later who may be better and should win the Heisman this year if he can overcome the actions of an over-zealous parent.
If Pat Sullivan could be called “Superman” by the nation’s premier sports magazine, then there’s just not a superlative left descriptive enough for Cam Newton. He was named SEC co-offensive player of the week Monday after completing 12 of 15 passes for 148 yards, rushing 30 times for 151 yards and scoring four touchdowns in the 49-31 victory over Georgia.
But perhaps the most impressive statistic is that Auburn converted 10 third downs in the game Saturday and Newton carried the ball all 10 times. He has now become the first player in SEC history to have accumulated over 2000 yards passing and 1000 yards rushing in the same season. It was the fifth time this season that Newton has won or shared the SEC offensive award.
If he was not involved in any of the alleged discussions regarding the attempted playfor pay arrangement orchestrated by his father, Newton should win the Heisman. He is the most complete college quarterback I have ever seen.
Nissan, the presentation sponsor for the Heisman Award banquet, which will be telecast on ESPN Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., has one of the 942 votes for the award and they are letting the public decide for whom that one vote will be cast. Newton was leading when I checked on Monday with 38 percent of the votes. Patrick Peterson of LSU and Denard Robinson of Michigan followed with 15 and 12 percent. Search on your computer for Nissan and Heisman to access the site.
A correction on Dr. Bronner’s pay
Last week I reported that David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, is now paid $611,000, up from $518,000 of 18 months ago. That amount was incorrect. He is actually paid $23,499.75 for each of the state’s 24 pay periods for a total salary of $563,994. I had forgotten that several years ago the state changed from 26 to 24 each year.