If you’ve walked through downtown Auburn anywhere near Toomer’s Corner in the past decade, you had to have seen them - those diamond-shaped plaques of stone set into the sidewalks, each carved with the name of some famous coach, athlete, or an administrator.
Together those plaques make up the Tiger Trail of Auburn, and this past weekend, that collection of names grew by the largest number of inductees in a single class yet.
Resuming the Tradition
Like many things in society, inducting new members into the Trail had taken a three-year hiatus due to COVID restrictions. So when the time came to resume the tradition, Auburn University and the Auburn-Opelika Chamber needed to make up for some lost time.
Eight honorees, from a host of Auburn athletic programs, were honored and given the opportunity to select where their plaque would be located. The egalitarian procedure had each honoree in attendance randomly draw labels from a bowl that identified which spot along College or Magnolia would become theirs.
The Fitting Symbolism of the Trail
Auburn Mayor Ron Anders told the crowd of attendees how the Auburn-Opelika Chamber began discussing an idea of creating a walk-of-fame, similar to the one in Hollywood, where Auburn greats could be recognized and commemorated.
In the dozen-plus years since those discussions, the fitting symbolism of the Trail has become all the more obvious.
When locals and visitors alike walk up and down the intersection of those common sidewalk passageways, they can glance down and remember some of Auburn’s most outstanding men and women, and consider how those giants also passed through this small city on the Plains, and were forever changed by it.
For some of those giants, like women’s swimming great Kirsty Coventry, Auburn was a place to learn and grow into one of the top athletes in the world. But even after earning seven Olympic medals and returning to her native Zimbabwe, Kirsty remarked how incredibly special the Auburn family is in opening its arms to foreign students and foreign athletes.
Golf’s Chip Spratlin expressed his appreciation for his time at Auburn that allowed the un-recruited golfer to develop and grow his talents to the point of winning Auburn’s only individual golf National Champion.
Track’s Jimmy Dozier recounted about his time at Auburn and at the magnitude of winning Auburn’s first SEC Track Championship, an upset over heavily-favored LSU.
Football’s Joe Whitt, Sr. conveyed how much his twenty-five-plus career at Auburn shaped him and his family, and how through each transition in his career, Auburn remained his home.
For equestrian head coach Greg Williams, Auburn has always been home. The Auburn native shared the importance of a decision to leave a professional rodeo career, come back home, and establish the premiere equestrian program in the country.
Others in the group, like softball’s Emily Carosone, basketball’s Marquis Daniels, and football’s Stan White reminisced how their time at Auburn enabled them to pursue professional careers, before their life paths brought each back to the Plains, working with the programs that had shaped their college years.
Pathways of Inspiration
With so many outstanding members of the Auburn family present, there was no shortage of stories about the powerful and cherished experiences of their times at Auburn.
As those members’ names are placed on the sidewalks of downtown Auburn in the coming days, passersby can be inspired by those stories and perhaps dream of where their Auburn experiences will lead them as well.
The 2022 Tiger Trail of Auburn Honorees
Emily Carosone - Women's Softball 2013-2016
Kristy Conventry - Women's Swimming 2003-2005
Marquis Daniels - Men's Basketball 2000 – 2003
Jimmy Dozier - Men's Track & Field 1958 – 1962
Chip Spratlin - Men's Golf 1991 -1995
Stan White - Football 1990 – 1993
Joe Whitt, Sr. - Football/Administration 1981-2014
Greg Williams - Head Equestrian Coach 1996 - Present