‘It’s AUsome’: Former WSN Eagles are champions at Auburn
There is a saying that good things come in threes. That saying is especially true for two players and a coach on this year’s Auburn Tiger football team.
Players Jamar Travis, Jared Cooper, and coach Scott Fountain all are from East Brewton and W.S. Neal High School.
Fountain graduated from W.S. Neal in 1984 while Cooper graduated in 2007 and Travis in 2009.
Fountain joined the Auburn staff in 2009 and in charge of all aspects of recruiting for the Tigers while Cooper is a 6-4, 300 pound junior offensive lineman with a major in history of education. Travis is a 6-0, 288 pound sophomore defensive lineman with an undecided major.
All three have helped lead Auburn to their seventh SEC Championship this season and their fourth undefeated season. The Tigers will be playing for the National Championship Jan. 10 in Arizona against the Oregon Ducks. This will be the Tigers chance at their second national championship with their last coming in 1957.
“It’s always great to be an Auburn Tiger one way or another, day in and day out, but right now as you might could imagine it’s especially good,” Cooper said. “Nobody ever really saw this coming. It’s really great to be one right now.”
Travis said being an Auburn Tiger right now is the best feeling in the world.
“Seeing that we’re currently undefeated and headed to the National Championship BCS Game, it’s the greatest feeling,” Travis said.
Cooper said that the feeling of being SEC champs this year has not really sunk in yet.
“Coach Troop(er) (Taylor) has said since he got here,” Cooper said. “He’ll ask, ‘What did you come here to win?’ and we’ll say, ‘Championships.’ And it was something when he started saying it we hadn’t played a game yet. We hadn’t played one down of football and everybody said it just to say it, but the more the season went on the more everybody kind of believed it when we said it. Like I said, it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Cooper said that’s been the case with the whole season because by the time you finish one game it’s time to move on to the next, so you don’t really have time to let everything sink in.
“Coach (Gene) Chizik says the stakes go up every week, so as soon as you get done playing one game you’ve got to turn around and the next day we are getting ready for the next one,” Cooper said. “I’ll probably know a lot more here in a couple of months when actually kind of hits home.”
Along with being SEC champs, Cooper said it is real special to be the first Auburn team since 1957 to have a chance to play for a National Championship?
“It’s another one of those things that hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Cooper said. “We were talking about it— ‘Oh, we’re going to the National Championship’ but, you always think about the National Championship as some big, grand stage for all these great teams, which obviously we proved this season we are. But, it’s just never sunk in to really truly picture yourself being a part of and it’s a real special deal. It’s another one of those things that I think will sink in a lot more as time goes on, but right now we’re just in the preparing stage for it. We haven’t really got time to step back and look at what all is going to happen.”
Travis, who struggled with his recruitment between Southern Miss and Auburn, said this season lets him know he made the right decision.
“No doubt,” Travis said. “It was just the feeling I had with Auburn. It was just the best place.”
Travis said coming to Auburn and being a champion is like a dream.
“As I said, it’s every college athlete’s dream to go to the National Championship and win an SEC Championship if you’re in that conference,” Travis said. “So like I said, it’s the best feeling. It’s a huge honor seeing that it’s been over half a century (since we last played for a national championship). It’s just a huge honor to go back. At the beginning of the season, we all as players got together and talked about playing for the championship. We knew we were going to be a great team we just didn’t know how great and if there was going to be anything to stop us it was going to be ourselves.”
One game this season for Cooper was eerily similar to a game of his in high school. Against Auburn’s biggest rival this season on the road at Alabama, the Tigers found themselves down 24-0 and trailing 24-7 at the half. Cooper’s senior season against W.S. Neal’s biggest rival T.R. Miller on the road in the Battle of Murder Creek, the Eagles trailed big at the half.
“When we played the game my senior year I thought then I’ll never be a part of anything like this again,” Cooper said. “It’s eerie how similar they were because we were down 21-0 at the half against T.R. Miller and 24-0 in the second quarter against Alabama, but the biggest similarity was you didn’t really see a sense of panic in anybody.”
Cooper said the one thing people always want to know during a big comeback is what did coach say at halftime?
“Really what it all boils down to in games like that coaches come in and say, ‘alright what are you going to do. How are you going to respond?’ And that was the question we got asked in high school.” Cooper said. “‘What are you going to do?’ And this time around we just knew we had to take it one score at a time. Coach (Curtis) Luper came in and he just was telling everybody, ‘you can’t score 17 at once. You just got to take it drive by drive.’ It’s something I never thought I would be a part of again, but I’m glad I got the chance to.”
Fountain said this season at Auburn has been ‘AUsome.’
“It’s obviously been a wonderful season,” Fountain said. “At Auburn our motto is ‘Work Hard Work’. That’s what we do and things have paid off this season. It’s great to be playing for a National Championship and its great to be SEC champs.”
Fountain said when we arrived at Auburn, the coaches wanted to get Auburn back to where its been.
“Players like Jamar and Jared have been a big part of that,” Fountain said. “There are also former players from Brewton that have built this program in the past. The likes of Lee Mark Sellers who is still very involved with what we are doing at Auburn. I am very proud and honored to be a part of the East Brewton/Brewton culture that has emerged at Auburn. We are blessed to be in this position to play for the big prize. I feel like we are carrying the torch for all the former teams that were undefeated here at Auburn.”
Fountain said he has been coaching for a while.
“I have coached at Flomaton, WS Neal, head coach at Frisco City for three years and Monroe County for one year,” Fountain said. “ I was a graduate assistant at Florida State for three years, assistant coach at Central Florida for eight years and coached the offensive line. I was at Middle Tennessee where I coached offensive line for two years and Georgia Southern where I was assistant head coach and offensive line coach for one year. I was at Iowa State where I was tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for years.
“I am currently at Auburn where I am director of player personnel and recruiting coordinator for the last two seasons.”
As a coach at Auburn, Fountain said for Auburn to be playing for the National Championship is an honor.
“It’s great for this state to have Auburn and the University of Alabama in the National Championship back-to-back. We feel like in the SEC if you can win this conference then there is always a chance of playing for it all.”
This is not the first time Fountain and Auburn coach Gene Chizik have worked together.
“I’ve worked with Chizik since our UCF days,” Fountain said. “He has always been a winner. We beat Alabama at UCF and had pretty good teams there for an independent 1A. He ran an excellent program at ISU (Iowa State) and his previous success at Auburn and Texas (26 wins in a row) speaks volumes of who he is. Athletic Director Jay Jacobs knew who he was hiring at Auburn and ISU knew they were losing a great ball coach there. He is the same man now that he was at ISU. Just at a much better place for football at a higher level.”
All three Auburn Tigers said for them to all have ties to East Brewton and W.S. Neal and now winning at Auburn is something special.
“I hate to keep saying it’s a special deal, but considering the size of Brewton, considering the amount of students that go to W.S. Neal, for us to have this many people involved in the National Championship game on the biggest stage in college football it’s weird,” Cooper said. “To think that Jamar and I were playing at W.S. Neal High School playing on the field in front of a few hundred and now we’re about to be playing in the National Championship game in front of however many thousands there plus millions watching on TV.
“Like I said, it’s the biggest stage there is. I think it’s just a testament to the school and the kind of people it produces.”
Travis said being a 2009 graduate deciding to play for Auburn was the best feeling.
“Growing up with Jared, he helped me out when I was making my decision to come to Auburn and playing with him and the rest of my teammates on the field and talking to my friends about how things go up here and how fun it is,” Travis said. “It’s a huge honor. You talk to all your friends even though they’re big college football fans and they watch the games and just to be a part of that is just a great honor.”
Fountain said he has always been extremely proud to be from East Brewton and a W.S. Neal High graduate.
“I always felt W.S. Neal prepared me well for my future,” Fountain said. “But I am proud for the Auburn Nation and especially all the Auburn graduates and fans in the Escambia County area.”
Fountain said he has been truly blessed to have been a student at W.S. Neal.
“My life was blessed to be touched by former principals David Salter and Phillip Ellis, former teachers and graduates of W.S. Neal. My mother (educator of 30 years at WSN), father (always believed in this community and still does) and uncles who instilled in me to fall in love with W.S. Neal football—Who by the way one played at Alabama and one at Auburn back in the 60s.”
Although W.S. Neal football has fallen on hard times as of late, Fountain said that W.S. Neal football will be back.
“Just like life, you must continue to work the through the good and bad times,” Fountain said. “The new principal, Mrs. Patricia (Frazier) will do an outstanding job there and hire a coach she feels works for East Brewton and W.S. Neal. My advice to the new head coach is to ‘work hard work’ and follow your plan.”
(Bob Grant with Auburn Media Relations also assisted with this story.)