The ultimate team player that he is, Cox was a two-year starting quarterback returning for his senior season in 2007, but struggled early and got unseated by freshman Kodi Burns.
Rather than taking an easy way out, Cox tutored and even cheered for Burns as the freshman took over the spot in the third game against Mississippi State and started the next game against New Mexico State.
Cox stuck with it, earned his job back, beat Alabama for third time and helped the Tigers win eight of their last 10 games capped off with a 23-20 victory over Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
In yet another tight game, Auburn was down 20-17 in overtime and facing a third and 13. The senior lefty fired a strike on the sideline to receiver Rod Smith, who was tackled just inches away from the first down. On fourth down Cox went behind his offensive line and picked up the first down, keeping Auburn alive and giving the Tigers a chance for victory. Just 14 yards away from a win, Cox came out after picking up the first down and passed the torch onto Burns, who scored three plays later on a seven-yard touchdown.
“It’s our 50th win--us seniors,” Cox says of the players who have been in the program with him since 2003. “We set a record tonight and we won our last game. We’ll always remember that.
“It’s never been done in Auburn history,” he continues. “We can say that we’ve done it. We’ve won 50 games in five years as a group. That’s something we can always be proud of and always can look back on and say we were the only ones to do it.”
The fifth-year seniors finished their careers at 50-14 and the four-year players are 42-9, also a school record.
“This offense fits the guys we have,” Cox says of Tony Franklin’s new system that was run for the first time against Clemson. “It fits them really well. It’s going to be exciting to watch them go through spring practice and compete and also carry it into the year.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he adds of his career being finished. “It’ll probably be a few weeks when I’m laying around doing nothing realizing that I don’t have to be out there that it’s going to sink in and I’m going to start to miss it.”
Typical of a starting quarterback, Cox has taken a lot of heat through his career despite being the quarterback of a team that won 29 games in his three years as a starter.
The native of Trussville, Ala., persevered again in his final victory after an interception early in the fourth quarter led to a Clemson touchdown and put Auburn in a hole, 17-10.
Auburn’s next possession, Cox converted a third and five on a surprising QB draw play, and he also threaded the needle on a flag route pass for 18 yards to Robert Dunn while leading the his team to the game-tying score midway through the fourth.
“(Franklin) told me to be expecting it sometime during the game,” Cox says of the draw play. “It still caught me off guard and I had to make sure to get the sign right. It was a good call--it worked. I don’t think they were expecting it. Nobody on the (Auburn) sidelines expected it so I know Clemson didn’t expect it.”
In overtime, Cox’s sideline strike to Smith was arguably the play of the game. An incompletion would have set up a 45-yard Wes Byrum field goal for a tie and double overtime.
“Rod ran a great route,” Cox explains. “He slipped outside the DB and the cornerback kind of lost him for a little bit. Rod slipped back underneath him, made a good catch and got us in position to convert that fourth down."
Of the fourth down conversion, Cox says, “We had a good play to get down there and Coach Tubs (Tommy Tuberville) was confident in us to get that half a yard or whatever it was. The offensive line did a great job of coming off the ball and give me a little run to get the half yard.”
The converted sneak was Cox’s final snap as he watched in joy from the sidelines as his possible replacement for the future ran it in for the 23-20 victory.
He finished the game completing 25-39 passes for 211 yards, but more importantly Cox and the Auburn seniors finished their careers with an impressive 50 victories.