Auburn Club celebrates success

Published 2:00 am Saturday, June 15, 2013

Organizers were quick to call the Escambia County Auburn Club’s first annual meeting since it reorganized a success.
Among the guest speakers at the annual meeting held at The Club on Highway 21 in Atmore was Kate Larkin with the Auburn Alumni Association. She said she was impressed by the turnout for the club that had been dormant since 2004.
“To see not just a big crowd, but the excitement in this room is a great thing,” Larkin said.
Outgoing club President Shirley West was also impressed by the turnout for the meeting that included alumni and friends.
“We’ve had an outstanding turnout,” she said of the near-capacity crowd. “I think we made a statement tonight that Auburn University is coming back.”
The Club’s resurgence was punctuated when Treasurer Mitch Jones told the crowd the club had 164 members on its roster.
“I think that’s a pretty good accomplishment,” he said.
After numerous phone calls, last summer a small group of about 20 would-be members got together at David’s Catfish in Atmore to discuss the possible of reorganizing the club, Jones said.
“We were all apprehensive about how it was going,” he said. “Everybody just fell into place and we elected officers.”
Jones also announced the club had $1,806 for a scholarship that was awarded to W.S. Neal student Stephanie Lambert. Jones added money from the silent auction would supplement that.
Mobile resident, Auburn alumnus and three-time Olympian Gabor Mate spoke to the crowd about his first impressions of the Auburn campus after arriving from Hungary.
He said all he knew about Alabama was what they saw on television and he had to wipe his mind clean of that.
“The people made me feel warm and fuzzy inside,” said the 6-foot-7-inch discus thrower. “I enjoyed every moment I spent with them.”
Mate compete in the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympic games in addition to winning two national titles for discus at Auburn. He now works at United Bank and coaches track and field for the Bay Area Bombers and a local wounded warrior.
“I’m very honored to be a member of this family and be called an Auburn Tiger,” he said. “I am eternally grateful to the Auburn family for giving me the opportunity to take my talents to the next level and make me who I am.”
Stephen Malkoff, an artist and former walk-on for legendary football coach Pat Dye, recalled his decision to play football at Auburn and his first game action.
Malkoff had played football at Enterprise High School and went to Auburn to study architecture. He said he woke up one day during his junior year at Auburn and decided he would walk-on as a linebacker.
After getting contact information from his high school coach and talking to coaches at Auburn the then 195-pound Markoff was headed to winter workouts.
“They tried to kill me,” he said. “I put on 15 pounds of muscle and thank God because they would’ve killed me.”
After earning the respect of coaches and players due to a practice drill where he got hit multiple times until his eyes were swollen shut, Malkoff made the dress-out list during the team’s second game in 1988 against Kansas; a 56-7 win in front of more than 55,000 fans. Auburn would go on to win the 1988 Southeastern Conference title that year.
He was put in on special teams, but threatened that if he didn’t make a tackle he’d never see the field again.
“My heart was pounding so hard I could’ve run into a wall and I did,” he said, referring to players forming a wall during kickoff coverage. “When I woke up I was on top of the guy with the ball. I made the most beautiful unconscious tackle you’ve ever seen.”
He was able to make another tackle on kickoff coverage that day. He closed with a Dye quote that seems to jab at fans for The University of Alabama.
“Alabama people love Alabama football,” he said, quoting Dye. “Auburn people love Auburn.”
To close the meeting, outgoing club President Shirley West passed the gavel to Brewton resident Elaine King. Next year’s meeting will be held in Brewton.