Auburn, Ala.--For Auburn redshirt junior defensive back Walter McFadden waiting to find out who his team’s new head football coach would be wasn’t a pleasant experience.
On Saturday the 10-day search produced Tommy Tuberville’s replacement, Gene Chizik, who is returning to Auburn where he coached defensive backs and coordinated the defense from 2002 through 2004.
McFadden and the other Tigers listened to Chizik address the team on Sunday night after flying in with his family from Ames, where he had been head coach of the Iowa State Cyclones the past two seasons.
“It was just a big relief we finally found a father figure again, somebody who can come in and be there for us,” McFadden says. “He said he was going to meet with us individually as soon as possible.”
McFadden was among the players at the airport to greet the coach who recruited him, but hasn’t had the chance to coach the cornerback. Following Auburn’s unbeaten 2004 season, Chizik left to become defensive coordinator at Texas and was gone by the time McFadden arrived on campus from Ely High in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Commenting on Chizik as the recruiter who convinced him to play for Auburn, McFadden says, “He was an honest guy. He came and got straight to the point with me. He let me know what I needed to do to make it to Auburn and what they were looking for when I got there.”
McFadden says that Chizik did a better job than anybody else did recruiting him for the 2005 signee class. “I believe he is at the top,” the defensive back said. “He got me here.”
McFadden adds a lot of coaches came by to recruit him. “What I remember, nobody just blew him out on anything.”
The cornerback says he talked to a former Auburn cornerback who played for Chizik, Patrick Lee, for a scouting report on Auburn’s new head coach.
McFadden says Lee called Chizik a “great coach,” and added, “He stayed on him a lot about a lot of things. Patrick Lee said just do what he asks. He got three Jim Thorpe Award players and he is liable to make somebody here a Jim Thorpe Award player.”
The Thorpe Award is presented annually to the nation’s top defensive back. Auburn’s Carlos Rogers won it in 2004 while playing for Chizik.
This season Paul Rhoads was defensive coordinator and secondary coach for the Tigers. McFadden says that Chizik didn’t tell the players who his assistants will be. “He just said he is going to get us the best coaching staff out there,” McFadden says. He said right now we can’t worry about the coaches. We need to worry about working out and getting our academics right.”
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