Local Georgia, Auburn connections share memories

Despite its roots in Georgia athletics, the Douglas family quickly bonded with the Auburn community when John suited up in burnt orange and navy blue.

 

So when younger brother Brendan followed in father Pat’s footsteps by heading to Athens, Ga., the Douglas household started to mix its sweatshirt and cap colors.

“We always have mixed feelings when they play,” Pat said. “We have strong ties to Georgia. When John went to Auburn, we fell in love with it. It’s a tight community with a lot of spirit.”

Auburn knocked off No. 1 Georgia 40-17 on Nov. 11 in the 2017 regular-season edition, but the Bulldogs get a rare second shot at the rival Tigers in the Southeastern Conference Championship today at 4 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The week of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is fun for the Douglas family, even if slightly divided. A second contest between the two makes for even more enjoyment for an Augusta family with strong ties to both sides.

Pat was recruited by Georgia among others while at Aquinas before blowing out an ankle in the second game of his senior prep season. He ended up walking on at Georgia instead and was relegated to the scout team for three years, including the 1980 national championship team.

Before following Erk Russell to Georgia Southern and providing a major impact to the early Eagles teams in the 1980s, Pat witnessed No. 1 Georgia handle Auburn 31-21 on the road in the 1980 version to clinch the SEC Championship en route to a national title.

Pat’s son, John, was also heavily recruited at Aquinas and landed at Auburn in 2007. The Douglas family naturally gravitated to the Tiger community and built ties with the program during his two years there before he transferred to Georgia Southern.

“When John was a senior at Aquinas, we went to an Auburn game against Florida,” Pat said. “It was crazy. It was an unbelievable atmosphere.”

John’s younger brother, Brendan, was next in line to star at Aquinas. Instead of following his older brother to Auburn, Brendan stayed in state and joined Georgia, where he spent four years as a tailback and racked up more than 700 career rushing yards between 2013-16.

“My brother went to Auburn, so it was a little weird when I went to Georgia,” Brendan said. “We’ve been fans of Auburn a long time. We fell in love with Auburn.”

After rooting for his brother at Auburn games and wearing the colors, Brendan’s first on-field experience in the rivalry as a freshman at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2013 provided an odd feeling.

“It was weird when I was playing them, but it was always fun,” said Brendan, who had a 16-yard reception in the 2013 game. “Freshman year was an interesting game. We had been cheering on Auburn for a while because my brother went there, but it was always fun to go there.”

Brendan rushed four times for 25 yards as a junior in the 2015 game at Jordan-Hare, a 20-13 Georgia victory that proved to be his final appearance against Auburn.

Now set to earn his degree from Georgia in a couple weeks, Brendan is watching friends and former teammates as they try to exact revenge on their rival in the biggest game of their season to this point.

“I hope the guys do well,” he said. “I still have a lot of buddies on the team. I wish nothing but the best for them.”

MARTY JACKSON

There are two Jacksons who have Southeastern Conference championship rings from 1983, when Auburn claimed the league title for the first time since 1957: Superstar running back Bo and Marty, a former walk-on wide receiver who served as a graduate assistant that season.

Auburn made great strides in coach Pat Dye’s second season, going 9-3. It was a 20-16 defeat to Georgia in 1982 – the Bulldogs clinching their third consecutive SEC title – that sparked the team to its success the following year, Marty Jackson said.

“You could hear the people in the stands going, ‘It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger,” said Jackson, now the Grovetown athletic director. “We had gone through low times. We had lost to Alabama something like nine times in a row. After that game, we felt like we were going to get there. We played a great game. Georgia scored. We drove it down to about the 10 and just couldn’t put it in.

“That game let us know we could compete.”

Jackson, of Mobile, Ala., started school at Auburn in 1978. He got married young and was majoring in physical education. Jackson wanted to be a coach and decided to walk on. He went up to the equipment manager and asked about playing wide receiver. He told him OK.

As he prepared to join the team in 1980, he got in shape cutting lawns, running behind a push mower. Auburn went 5-6 that season and coach Doug Barfield was dismissed. The Tigers then hired Dye, who brought a different level of toughness to the program. In the spring, 184 players tried out for football. By the start of the spring game, only 90 remained.

“I survived Pat Dye’s first season,” Jackson said. He has an autographed Dye picture and coffee mug in his office. “I saw coach Dye come out of the tower and challenge every offensive lineman to a fight.”

Jackson, a head football coach for 27 seasons in Georgia, dressed out for two games in 1981. The following year, he was asked to help out with the scout team.

In 1983, he worked as one of two graduate assistants for Dye, finally getting a scholarship. That season, Auburn went into Athens, Ga., and defeated the Bulldogs, 13-7, snapping Georgia’s three-game winning streak in the rivalry. The victory locked up the SEC championship and a Sugar Bowl appearance for the Tigers.

“It was sugar sweet,” Jackson said. “Coach Dye had sugar on the football. We had cigars in the locker room and he was pouring sugar on that football, licking it.”

DAMIEN POSTELL

Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., Damien Postell became a die-hard Florida fan. Then, he played four years for Auburn. So when it comes to Georgia, there’s no love lost.

Postell, the second-year Grovetown football coach, grew up wanting to play college football in The Swamp, but he never received an offer. So when Auburn came calling, he took the offer to play SEC football.

Postell was recruited as a running back at Auburn. After his freshman season in 1998, Terry Bowden was let go. When Tommy Tuberville became the Tigers’ new coach, Postell was switched to defense, moving to the roverback/whip positions in the 4-2-5 set. Because of a new coaching staff, Postell saw little playing time.

“They were great guys, but they never recruited me,” he said.

Postell was a member of Auburn’s 2000 SEC West champion team that defeated Georgia, 29-26, in overtime. The Bulldogs kicked a field goal, but Auburn’s Rudi Johnson, who rushed for 152 yards, helped push the Tigers to the goal line, where quarterback Ben Leard scored the game-winner on a sneak.

“It was a back-and-forth game,” he said. “The main going into overtime was to give Rudi the ball.”

In Postell’s senior year in 2001, Auburn traveled to Athens, Ga., for Bulldogs coach Mark Richt’s first taste of the rivalry. Nine years earlier, Auburn watched the clock expire with the ball inside the Georgia 1-yard line. This time, the Bulldogs mismanaged the clock at the end of the contest, a seven-point Tigers victory.

“That game was a test of two talents,” Postell said. “Carnell (Williams) had something like 42 carries. He carried us in that game.”

 

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