Auburn, Ala.--Three Auburn football players--Will Herring, Ben Obomanu and Carnell Williams--share one common goal for Saturday--beating Bama.
However, each player had a different prospective of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry while growing up in the state of Alabama.
Herring, who is from Opelika and attended several Iron Bowls before his collegiate playing days, including Auburn’s 30-20 victory over the Crimson Tide in 1989, has been a big-time Auburn fan his entire life.
“There’s different types of Auburn fans--Auburn fans that hate Alabama with a passion and would love to see them go 0-10, but for me I always wanted the game to be as big as possible,” sophomore free safety says. “I’d love for us to come in undefeated and them to come in undefeated--two top teams in the country. Regardless, it’s still a cross-state rivalry unlike any other in the country. It doesn’t get any bigger and better than this.”
Williams, a senior tailback who is a semi-finalist for the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back along with teammate Ronnie Brown, grew up on the opposite end of the spectrum.
“I was pretty much going to (Alabama) games since middle school,” he says. “I had middle school coaches taking me down there watching their games. Pretty much year in and year out I was going to games (in Tuscaloosa).
“Watching Auburn-Alabama growing up I was always rooting against Auburn,” says Williams, who developed into one of the state’s all-time great tailbacks at Etowah High in Attalla.
Former Selma High star Obomanu didn’t fully embrace the heated rivalry until playing against Alabama as a true freshman in Auburn’s 17-7 win in Tuscaloosa in 2002.
Ben Obomanu is part of an improved receiver group for the Tigers.
“When I grew up I was really kind of a Florida State fan a little bit--with Deion Sanders and some of those guys,” Obomanu says. “To be honest I never was a football fan either because I never thought I’d played football. I thought I’d play basketball. As you get older, you kind of buy more into it.”
An Auburn fan, an Alabama fan and a Florida State fan, now Auburn men, have a common goal for Saturday’s game in Tuscaloosa.
“This week, Alabama is all anybody cares about,” Herring says. “For us to go in there and not bring everything we’ve got, we’re asking for an upset. That would make their season. They’d feel like they’re undefeated if they can upset us. We feel like we are the better team if we play like we’re capable of playing. We just have to come out focused.”
From high school playing days to football camps to All-Star games, many players on both teams know each other.
“I know a lot of them but I haven’t talked to any of them this season as much as I have in the past--just some of the cornerbacks and safeties,” Obomanu says. “I know (tailback) Kenneth Darby, (cornerback) Ramzee Robinson, (safety) Roman Harper and (defensive tackle) Jeremy Clarke.
“A lot of those guys I played with in the Alabama (and Mississippi) All-Star Game,” he adds. “If I didn’t play with them in that game, I met them because I played against them in high school. It’s always fun every time you get together because it makes a difference when you got out and play the football game and you go play against friends. It’s a lot more to play for.”
Will Herring celebrates (left) and fellow safety Junior Rosegreen celebrate a big play.
A victory for Auburn would not only be the third straight in the series for the Tigers, it would also give Auburn its first undefeated regular season since 1993. A win would move the Tigers one step closer to a possible shot at their first football national championship since 1957.
“I’m just looking forward to it,” says Williams, who rushed for 202 yards vs. Alabama last season but missed almost all of the game his freshman year when he was injured early in the game. He also missed the entire game due to an injury as a sophomore.
“It’s going to be tough. I haven’t played in this rivalry much, just once,” he says, not counting the brief appearance as a freshman. “Just knowing that everything is coming to an end with my college career, it’s kind of sad in a way that it’s all just coming to an end.
“Last week was emotional for me because it was my last home game,” Williams says of Auburn’s 24-6 win over Georgia. “This is an emotional week for me being my last regular season game. This whole year has been special for me. I’m very blessed to have made a great decision to come back and just be a part of what’s going on around here. I’m very fortunate.
“This is my first time playing in that stadium and it’ll be my last time to play them,” Williams adds. “It’s my last regular season game so I’m just looking forward to the atmosphere. I know it’s going to be crazy.”