Originally created 06/14/06

Auburn tabs Aquinas star



It would be nearsighted to just mention that John Douglas is now the area's second rising high school senior to commit to a major college football program this spring.

Douglas plays at Aquinas. When he enrolls at Auburn in the fall of 2007, he will be the first Irish alum since Tony Daykin and Larry O'Hagan to be a scholarship recipient to a Division I-A football program.

That was in 1973 when few area fans knew who Larry Campbell or even Walter Payton was. Douglas' father, Patrick, was 12 years old at the time.

The 235-pound fullback's decision to commit to Auburn on Sunday is a Father's Day present that came a week early. It was why Pat Douglas took a second to get his composure while discussing the commitment Monday.

"I need a moment with this," he said. "It hasn't been an easy year. We lost someone very special."

John Douglas was named after his grandfather, who died after a second bout with cancer on March 9.

"My dad," Pat Douglas said. "John's namesake. The two were close. His grandfather would have been so proud to know John will be playing for Auburn. It's tough that he's not here with us to share in a joyous time for our family."

The news connects on another father-to-son level.

"I think about four years ago," John Douglas said. "I was talking to my dad and told him I'd never get noticed at Aquinas. I asked him how anyone was going to notice a player at a small school that's not really known for football."

His dad disagreed.

"I said, 'If you're good enough, then college football will find you no matter where you are,'" he said. "I said to let me worry about getting noticed and for him to just worry about being good enough."

Pat Douglas hates describing it as an I-told-you-so-moment between father and son.

"We were driving back to Augusta Sunday and I asked if he remembered when I told him college football would find him," said Pat Douglas, who was a walk-on safety at Georgia who later became the first scholarship player in the modern era of Georgia Southern football. "It was an 'I told you so, son' without having to say it. It was a very special moment for us."

Pat Douglas was the one who shipped highlights of his son's 2005 season on DVD to college coaches. He took his son to the many scouting combines that are so prevalent today.

"Kids and parents have to get the word out on their own," he said. "It didn't used to be that way. But now you've got to let the colleges know about you early."

Douglas committed to Auburn Sunday morning. His only scholarship offer before last weekend was at Division I-AA James Madison. His second came after Auburn saw his size and pass-catching ability compared with other recruits. He caught all 25 passes thrown his way in one receiving drill.

"Running backs coach Eddie Gran came up to me Sunday morning and said I looked like everything Auburn was looking for in a fullback," John Douglas said. "He asked what I would think about it if I were to get an offer from Auburn."

Douglas had heard an offer was coming. He did not sleep Saturday night thinking about it.

"I told Coach Gran that would be pretty cool," Douglas said. "And he said 'Well, you've got one' and asked me if I wanted to play for Auburn. I told him I did, and he gave me a big hug."

Head coach Tommy Tuberville reiterated the offer 30 minutes later and said he'd be the only fullback among Auburn's 2007 recruiting class.

Douglas will play fullback, defensive end and punt for the Irish this fall. Lincoln County quarterback Brandon Barden was the first rising senior in the area to make a commitment this spring. He chose Virginia Tech last week.

Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or jeff.sentell@augustachronicle.com.