Auburn junior defensive end Colby Wooden sprinted into the Tigers’ locker room where a camera lens waited to capture his entrance. He stared down the barrel and raised his pointer finger.
"First one!" he yelled. "For CADDY!"
A few minutes later, Auburn interim coach/program legend Cadillac Williams walked into his postgame news conference holding a game ball that his team had given him.
"I want to thank these players. I mean, how awesome are they? I challenged them guys to be vulnerable, open your heart, let us in. You got people that care for you, got people that want to see you do good. A lot of times, it just felt like they didn’t feel that way, and at times — like I told my staff when I took this job, and I’m part of it, we have failed these kids," Williams said. "It’s our job to elevate them, to inspire them, to empower them, to get them going, and we ain’t done a good enough job."
Auburn never loved Bryan Harsin. It wasn’t his fault. Maybe it would have been different if he had beaten Alabama in the Iron Bowl last year or spent more time in high schools around the state. We’ll never know.
But through two weeks, we do know that Auburn’s long-running love affair with one of the best players in its proud history has been rekindled and intensified now that he has been put in charge.
Texas A&M entered Jordan-Hare Stadium, found the season’s best atmosphere and left with a six-game losing streak as Williams bested his $95 million counterpart on the opposite sideline. The Aggies are, for better or worse, married to Jimbo Fisher. This November feels like a summer fling between Auburn and Williams.
Williams would violate my No. 1 rule of coaching hires: If no one else in your division would hire that coach, do not hire that coach. But this is also true: He has taken Auburn from a program mired in some of the worst vibes imaginable for the better part of a year and flipped it on its head in two weeks as the head man in charge
That has to mean something, especially with the NFL schedule. It might not be enough to give him the job permanently, but any coach who takes over and doesn’t retain Williams (who, it should be noted, coached Auburn’s best position group the past two years) is playing a dangerous game. Every program needs at least one coach on staff who knows and loves the program like Williams does Auburn.
And no matter how much everyone around him wants to make what’s happening at Auburn all about Williams, he spends most of his time deflecting that to the players, his coaching staff and fans every time there’s a microphone in his face.