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COMMENTARY

LEE: Cadillac, Zac, the senior class, and a lesson about sticking with it

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Auburn football vs Western Kentucky

Auburn interim head coach Carnell Williams leads the team out of the tunnel to start the game. Auburn vs Western Kentucky on Saturdayin Auburn, Ala.

DJ James finally got his Jordan-Hare moment.

Running back a 40-yard pick-six in the fourth to put the game on ice on Saturday, he took his chance to flip past the pylon, head over heels right along with the students, celebrating in that corner of the stadium wrapped around by the student section.

He popped up to meet them at the railing as the Tigers took a 41-17 lead over Western Kentucky, and the kids celebrated together.

He got his moment with them.

Last week, it was Colby Wooden, and the rest of the team, after Wooden’s strip sack helped win the big one against Texas A&M.

“I’ve always seen people run and jump on the ledge thing, but I’ve never done it,” Wooden said last week of scene and celebration in Jordan-Hare, a triumphant win for Auburn over the Aggies in Cadillac Williams’ first home game as interim head coach.

It was electric. It was special. “So, I figured now’s my chance,” Wooden said. “When I saw Tank take off (toward the students), I was like, ‘Yeah, this is my chance.’”

The lights dimmed, the jumped up and down together, they hollered together, and they played “Swag Surfin.” They got their moment, just like the big Iron Bowls in the years before and the big rivalry games in the years before, and, no, it wasn’t one of those and it wasn’t for a championship, and yes, it was just a game between 3-6 teams, but it was still the big game and it was still one they’ll talk about for years and years. “Remember that time Cadillac coached, and they won?”

This Saturday night, it was defensive backs coach Zac Etheridge, jumping in the air on the sideline as he watched his guy, James, pick off the pass and run it back — even wearing his old number, No. 4, that he wore during his playing days on the Plains and in the 2010 national championship win.

Cadillac and Etheridge have taught a lesson these last two weeks, along with all 21 seniors who were honored by Auburn on Saturday, that sticking with it can pay off. Etheridge could have left for a place like Georgia in the offseason, before he was promoted to associate head coach. And, yeah, Cadillac’s guy Tank Bigsby would’ve surely been welcomed over there if he ever went into the portal to chase greener grass, and he’s the caliber of player who should be playing for championships — but we’ll find out down the road if he ever regrets it, if he ever would’ve traded it.

Or he could be like Nick Marshall, like Seth Williams, like the other former players back on campus today to see the team, back where they feel like they belong.

For now, he’s gotten his moment — his celebration in Jordan-Hare with the students, who stuck in school through COVID-19 lockdowns, who wanted so badly to rush the field when the Iron Bowl went to overtime last year, like their older brothers and sisters got to do, but finally got something to cherish these last two weeks.

And Saturday night after the win, just before the alma mater, the students chanted “Cad-dy! Cad-dy!”

It might has well have been “Thank-you! Thank-you!” — for giving them their own Jordan-Hare moments, too.

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