“Barring insanity, Auburn will be your season six national champions” is what the call sounded like as David Roy painted a picture that many fans waited a long time to hear. In the end, it was Auburn on top and finally Matt Pack cleared the one hurdle that was always in his way. Being on the sideline and in the locker room was a special treat.
I was able to find the quarterback Griffin Jelkic after the game in the swarm of media and family. I asked him has it sunk in yet that you are a National Champion? “Yeah I think so! But it hasn’t changed anything in our mindsets and we start again on a battle for a 2nd title. It’s hard to not realize we are champions with the love we have had from the whole town of Auburn, AL”. I asked him what went through his mind when the clock hit zero. “It was literally, ‘I gotta hug someone, we did it, oh my, we did it!’ So that’s what I did. Hugged teammates and coaches and I felt like I was on the top of the world”. It has been an up and down career for Jelkic as quarterback for the Tigers, so I asked him if he thinks he silenced some of the critics. “I’d like to think so. People are saying that it was the greatest performance in a title game by a player, that’s gotta silence at least a few of them”. Jelkic finished with 430 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He came to play, so I asked him where this performance came from. “I have no idea haha it all felt like it was just my time. The coaches drew up a Gameplan and,” said Griff, “win us a title. I’ve never been so locked in and determined”. I asked what he would like to accomplish this upcoming season, “We have the same goal each season. That’s to win a title. I don’t need personal accolades. I want us to be champs again”.
Next, I was able to find stud running back Robert Davis who was surrounded by his parents and sharing an emotional hug. I asked him the same question I imparted to Jelkic. “I’m super happy. And feel very humbled to have had the opportunity to win a Championship not many people get to have that chance”. I wanted to know what his thoughts were as the clock hit zero, “my first thought was that we had actually accomplished our goal that we had set at the beginning of the season. And all the effort it took to get there. It was a very emotional moment”. I asked him what game or moment made him think that this team could be national champs, “Well I had a good feeling all season. Beating Alabama and securing our playoff spot really showed me that we had a lot of fight”. I asked him what the locker room is going to be like, “I think everyone will just be appreciative of the opportunity and thankful that we got to play with each other and play for Pack.” I wanted to get his thoughts on the season as a whole, “I’m a perfectionist so I always think I could play better personally. But I believe I did my job and did it successfully so that’s all I can ask for.” His thoughts for the upcoming season, “I think for us it’s championship or bust. We have a very talented team and anything less would be a disappointment”. Davis had 17 carries for 77 rushing yards and scored a touchdown to help lead the Tigers to victory.
I was able to find Ollie P. Peters who was just emotional and hugging with head coach Matt Pack after the game. Much like those before Peters, I asked the dreadlocked safety the very same question. Has it sunk in that you’re a National Champion? “Yes!!! Well.. actually not … I’m proud of it and excited about it but it doesn’t necessarily feel like it has sunk in!” I asked why it has not sunk in yet, “ou know, that’s a great question. I think when we get back on the field it will. We have to go out and work even harder to keep it!!” What will the mood be like in the locker room? “It will be special, something I can’t describe! I think that the fact that we won a championship for pack was the biggest victory tonight. We were all the most proud of that!” When or what game made you realize this team could win a national championship? “Honestly, it was the shut out. I’ve been an Auburn Tiger for three years and I’ve always been proud of our team and hopeful but after that game, I knew the title could be ours!” What are your thoughts as you prepare for your senior season, what is their left for you to do? “I would love to go back to back national champions but honestly, I hope to have a winning season with the guys on my team. I hope to represent the team well and I’d be happy to be in the all American talk!”
Lastly, saved the best interview for last. I was humbled to finally interview Matt Pack after receiving the national championship trophy. I asked the beloved Athletic Director how he felt about being crowned National Champions, much like I did for his players. “I’m happy for the team. It’s nice to finally get over that hump. Auburn has had some close calls in the past, but we finally pulled one out. It’s honestly pretty validating. You put in the work, and it pays off. Sometimes not as quickly as you’d like, but you have to stay after it.” What is the locker room going to be like? Electric. Players will be losing their minds, and close to 40 notifications on discord from different players in the league. I’ve said all along that this is all about the players, that they get the credit. After we won, my players insisted that it was for me. Pretty humbling experience honestly. It speaks to the greatness of this league that players get that invested. It’s also nice to have a bunch that is gonna sell out for you every week.” When did it creep into your mind that maybe this group can get it done? “In the offseason I knew we had a special team, but I wasn’t gonna bet on it in this league. To be honest, I’ve been on the other side a lot of times, so it really only settled in my mind that we could do this late in the 4th of the big game. I think confidence is very important. I knew what kind of team we had. I also think overconfidence leads to being unprepared, so I try to avoid it.” I had to ask for his advice on prospective ADs who might want to be an athletic director soon. “Study your craft, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. We have a lot of guys that follow trends, cover the basics, but be a leader, not a follower.”