Kick Six, Two Years Later: Auburn's Chris Davis Jr. looks back
When I first signed with Auburn in 2010, I didn't want to be a guy who just played college football. I wanted it to define me, and I wanted to be remembered by it. My 109-yard return of a missed last-second field goal against Alabama in the '13 Iron Bowl (a 34–28 win) was just the stamp on that. I remember my sophomore or junior year, when Gene Chizik was still the head coach, we were about to play Alabama. Before the game he told us, "If you haven't done anything else this season, all you have to do is make one play tonight and your name will be legendary forever." Every time people talk about my return, that's the first thing I think of.
Two years later, the play still comes up from time to time. People ask me: How did it feel to win like that? I haven't had too many strange encounters, but I do remember one day, when I was still in school, I was walking to class and somebody was taking a picture behind me. You know that yellow line on the edge of the road? Well, I was walking along that line down the sidewalk, and the person said, "Chris Davis doesn't even step out of bounds when going to class!" I thought that was pretty cool.
The play was kind of life-changing, especially when I was on campus. At first, I was just a regular football player. A few people here and there would recognize me, come up and ask for autographs. But after that play, I was walking into class to standing ovations, taking millions of pictures, signing autographs, getting kisses on the cheek. It was crazy.
Everybody used to ask: Did you guys even practice that? We never practiced that play. It was just great blocking all the way down the sideline. You could see Alabama players falling left and right. That's what got me in the end zone.
What's crazy is, my roommate at Auburn at the time was defensive back Ryan Smith, and he originally went back on the return team to watch for the kick, right before the Alabama field goal attempt. Ryan was supposed to be the guy who would've caught the ball. But during a timeout, we went to the sideline, and I remember assistant coach Charlie Harbison said, "Put Chris back there, because he's our primary punt return guy." So, Coach (Gus) Malzahn made the change.
I remember afterward, somebody asked Ryan about the play: "Do you think you should've been back there?" But he said the coaches made the right decision, and I deserved every bit of it.
I had to wait for the kick. I couldn't really tell where it was going. But soon I thought, I've got a chance. When I caught the ball, I tried to set up my return in one direction, because Alabama had a bunch of bigger guys on the field the other way. I tried to reverse it to our sideline, and all the blocking just fell into place.
I knew I wasn't going to step out of bounds. I knew I had tiptoed the sideline. That wasn't even a question. The biggest thing I was worried about was a flag, having the touchdown called back for something. When I scored, I was like …
Wow, did this just happen? But that feeling only lasted a split-second. Because after I got in the end zone, all my teammates started jumping on me. That was the worst. I almost died under that pile. I was screaming, "Get off me!"
In the locker room later, it was just like a regular victory. But it did mean a little more because we beat Alabama in that fashion. It was an unbelievable feeling, especially since it meant we got to go play for the SEC championship.
A couple of days after the game, coach Malzahn called me and said I needed to have a team meeting. I needed to tell the team it was a great win, but it's time to move forward. Another big game was ahead, and we had to put that one behind us.
That was by far the best play of my life. It was unbelievable. I wouldn't trade that moment for anything. And I had family there to witness it. Today, everywhere my momma goes, she gets reminded about that play. Some Alabama fans say, "Your son stepped out of bounds!" But it's all fun and games. My family cherishes that moment, too. I guess they're just as proud of me as I am.
In my everyday life, when I get asked about the play, I do sometimes get tired of it. I just feel like it gave me the recognition I was supposed to get as a defensive back. It got my name out there. But I expect bigger things. Maybe nothing will be bigger than that kick return, but I expect to do some big things in the NFL.
I used to have a couple of Sports Illustrated magazines, but I never thought I'd be on the cover. I still get so many people who have the picture; not even the magazine, just the image of the cover. That's the thing most people ask me to sign. But that's a cover I'll frame and take with me to the grave.
I still have my Auburn jersey from the play. I would've kept the game ball, too, but when I got in the end zone, I dropped it. I think Auburn has it. They said they put it somewhere.
I went back to Auburn for a game last season, during my rookie year in the NFL, but I haven't made it back this season. Last year I lost an Iron Bowl bet to Jarret Johnson, the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker who played at Alabama. So, I had to walk around with an Alabama sweater on. I won't be there in person for the Iron Bowl this year, but I'll be watching on TV. Who is going to win? C'mon, I can't root against my team. I'm forever an Auburn fan.
Chris Davis Jr. is a cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers. He played at Auburn from 2010-13.