What a game it would be. If the Fountain of Youth could be discovered behind the spigot of a Gatorade cooler, the bronze suddenly shaken from old cleats and the dust knocked off long- untouched game jerseys, we would truly have one for the ages. What a game it would be.
High school football is important across the South, where “my hometown team thumped your hometown team” gives people reason to jump out of bed on Monday mornings. But few areas can boast the gridiron history and heroes born on autumn nights around the Bay, at coliseums like Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Foley’s Ivan Jones Stadium and W.C. Majors Field in Fairhope.
Many local standouts go on to play in one of the nation’s most legendary rivalries: the Iron Bowl. And if these local legends could form teams and take the field together — just once more, in their school-day prime — what a game it would be.
As with most games, the outcome of our fantasy Iron Bowl will be heavily decided in the trenches. Auburn’s defensive line combines some of the most feared names in SEC history, and Bama will need extra blockers to stop the notorious Nick Fairley from getting to the quarterback. When Tiger QB Dameyune Craig goes under center, he’ll want to be careful about calling Ed Dyas’ number, what with John Mitchell and Lee Roy Jordan salivating across the line like leashed hound dogs watching a rabbit. The honorary coaches for the game, Joey Jones with Alabama and Vince Dooley at Auburn, had successful playing careers at their respective schools before rising to head coaching positions within other college programs.
Lionel “Red” Noonan, RB Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: ’48 (1 – 0)*
After serving in the Navy during WWII, Noonan led the 1945 Bama team to an undefeated season his freshman year, including a Rose Bowl victory over the USC Trojans. Noonan later returned to Lower Alabama and served as Mobile County Probate Judge.
Julio Jones, WR Foley High School, Iron Bowls: 2008 – ’10 (2 – 1)
Likely the most sought-after recruit the Bay area has ever produced, Alabama fans’ mania over Jones skyrocketed before his first season ever began when a video leaked from a scrimmage showing Jones outrun his defender, reel in a pass and stiff arm a senior first-teamer on his way into the end zone. Jones proved to be deserving of the hoopla and led the Tide in receiving for three seasons before leaving early.
Greg Richardson, WR Williamson High School, Iron Bowls: 1983 – ’86 (2 – 2)
Despite years as a contributor, Richardson largely earns his spot on this roster and in Tide fans’ hearts for a single play. Down 23 – 22, with the ball on their 12 and 37 seconds left, the Tide offense began driving. Near midfield and with no timeouts, Richardson caught a 19-yard delay route across the middle and dragged an Auburn defender across the sideline to stop the clock with 6 seconds left. Kicker Van Tiffin sprinted onto the field and split the uprights with a game-winning 52-yarder still known to Crimson Tide faithful as “The Kick.”
Kenny Stabler, QB Foley High School, Iron Bowls: 1964 – ’67 (4 – 0) “The Snake” showed the reasoning behind his nickname in the rain-soaked Iron Bowl of 1967, slithering for a 53-yard touchdown known as “The Run in the Mud.” The Tide won 7 – 3, and Stabler finished his college career with a 28 – 3 – 2 record as a starter. He would go on to play 17 seasons in the NFL, winning Super Bowl XI and the 1974 MVP Award. Stabler earns the starting nod over a bevy of talented Alabama QBs from the area.
Sherman Williams, RB Blount High School, Iron Bowls: 1991 – ’94 (3 – 1) In his senior year at Blount, Williams gained 3, 004 yards on 304 carries en route to a Class 5A state championship. He later won a national championship with Alabama in 1992.
Jimmy Dill, TE Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1962 – ’63 (1 – 1) Dill was an All-State and All- American player at Murphy in 1959. At Alabama, he became one of Joe Namath’s favorite targets, thriving in the bygone days of 175-pound tight ends.
Chris Samuels, OT Shaw High School, Iron Bowls: 1996 – ’99 (3 – 1)
Samuels had one of the most decorated individual careers in Crimson Tide history, culminating with the 1999 Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best interior lineman. After a career with the Redskins that included six Pro Bowl selections, Samuels now coaches at Blount High School in Prichard.
Buddy Aydelette, OG Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1976 – ’79 (4 – 0) Aydelette led an O-line that won three SECchampionships and two national championships. Drafted by the Packers in 1980, Aydelette spent three all-star seasons with the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions before returning to the NFL. To accomodate our wool-gathering, he makes the shift from tackle to guard.
Paul Crane, C Vigor High School, Iron Bowls: 1963 – ’65 (2 – 1)
In 1961, Crane was named an All-State and All-American center and linebacker at Vigor. He would go on to win two national championships at Alabama, which now gives an annual spring award in his honor, the “Paul Crane, ‘I Like to Prac- tice’ Award.” Crane was part of the New York Jets team that defeated the overwhelmingly favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, snapping the ball to fellow Bama alum “Broadway Joe” Namath.
Bill Shipp, OG Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1949, ’52 – ’53 (2 – 1)
A Mobile resident both before and after his playing days, Shipp was a finalist for the NFL Rookie of the Year Award with the New York Giants in 1954, his only season in the NFL. He then signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, where he was named All-Pro in eight of his 12 years.
Fred Pickhard, OT Mobile High School (now Murphy) Iron Bowls: * Pickhard was a member of the 1925 and 1926 national championship teams, and the MVP of Alabama’s monumental win in the 1927 Rose Bowl. His biggest contribution to the ’26 season, however, came against Sewanee, when he broke through the line and blocked a punt in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The ball rolled out of the end zone, and the Tide rolled to victory by a final score of 2 – 0.
* Between 1908 and 1947, the Iron Bowl was not played.
Dameyune Craig, QB Blount High School, Iron Bowls: 1994 – ’97 (2 – 2) Under legendary coach Ben Harris, Craig won two state championships during his time at Blount. He was 18 – 7 as Auburn’s starter and led the Tigers to 10 wins and an SEC Western Division title in 1997. Now the quarterbacks coach at Florida State University, Craig coached under Nick Saban at LSU and the Miami Dolphins.
Ed Dyas IV, RB McGill Catholic School, Iron Bowls: 1958 – ’60 (1 – 2) Dyas played fullback, linebacker and kicker for the Tigers and was a standout at all three. In his senior year, Dyas was named All-American, received the SEC’s Most Outstanding Back Award, set the NCAA record for most field goals in a season (13), and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. Drafted by the Baltimore Colts, he chose instead to attend medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon in Mobile. He served on the Senior Bowl Committee for more than 30 years and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Darrell “Lectron” Williams, RB Vigor High School, Iron Bowls: 1989 – ’91 (1 – 2)
Williams’ dazzling speed and moves propelled Vigor to back-to-back 6A state titles in ’87 and ’88, outscoring opponents 387 to 44 his senior year. “Lectron” became the first freshman in Auburn history to rush for 100 yards in three straight games after a 128-yard performance against Georgia in 1989. But, injuries plagued Williams throughout his playing days and ultimately negated his off-the-charts potential. He now works as a trainer and bodybuilder at Springhill Athletic Center.
Lawyer Tillman, WR LeFlore High School, Iron Bowls: 1985 – ’88 (3 – 1)
Perhaps best remembered for nearly sending Auburn announcer Jim Fyffe into cardiac arrest more than once, Tillman caused plenty of excitement for all Auburn fans during his tenure on the Plains. In the 1986 Iron Bowl, the trailing Tigers ran a reverse from the Alabama 8; Tillman darted through a fooled Alabama defense and into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
Herbert Casey, WR Foley High School, Iron Bowls: 1989 – ’91 (1 – 2) A multi-tooled athlete, Casey was All-State twice at Foley. As a quarterback, he threw for more than 1, 300 yards and ran for an additional 832 during his senior year. He started for two years at Auburn, catching a total of 45 passes, amassing 716 yards and four touchdowns.
Jessie McCovery, TE Theodore High School, Iron Bowls: 1993 – ’96 (2 – 2) McCovery was a key role player for Auburn’s undefeated 1993 team, though some felt that his talents as a receiver were never fully utilized. As a high school senior, he caught 18 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns.
Willie Anderson, OT Vigor High School Iron Bowls: 1993 – ’95 (2 – 1) As 6A Player of the Year and a Parade All-American, Anderson landed on Auburn’s campus with much fanfare. He did not disappoint, and the attention he garnered led him to enter the NFL Draft a year early. After winning the ’93 Iron Bowl, Anderson and fellow true freshmen McCovery, Craig and Bobby Daffin returned to Mobile and celebrated by painting Anderson’s Dodge Spirit. “It was probably the happiest time in my life, ” Anderson told AuburnUndercover.com. “We took shoe polish and wrote our numbers and the score all over the car. We were blowing our horn, acting crazy.”
Jason Taylor, OG Shaw High School, Iron Bowls: 1992 – ’95 (2 – 2) An All-State defensive lineman at Shaw, Taylor made the switch to O-line at Auburn. Pat Dye retired from coaching after Taylor’s freshman year, but Terry Bowden took the reins and went 20 – 1 – 1 over his first two seasons.
Ed Baker, C Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1951 – ’53 (0 – 3) Baker was named Tigers cocaptain alongside quarterback Vince Dooley in 1953. Upon graduation, Baker served two years in the U.S. Air Force before joining the coaching ranks. He had success at multiple Bay-area schools, including Bay Minette, UMS and Robertsdale (where varsity players sat out the ’71 season to boycott his firing after a disagreement with school officials).
Mike Davis, OG Davidson High School Iron Bowls: 1964 – ’66 (0 – 3) An All-State back at Davidson in the early 1960s, Davis switched to offensive line at Auburn and lettered for three years.
Jerry Gulledge, OG McGill Catholic School Iron Bowls: 1959 – ’61 (0 – 3) Gulledge played alongside Dyas in high school and college and no doubt threw some blocks that contributed to Dyas’ stats. An article in the Palm Beach Post from 1960 quoted AU Coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan as saying, about Gulledge’s unit, “I’ve never had a squad that practiced with any more enthusiasm and hustle.”
Mark Barron, DB St. Paul’s Episcopal School, Iron Bowls: 2008 – ’11 (2 – 1, For now) At running back, Barron led the Saints to the 2007 5A State Championship and rushed for 1, 094 yards and 15 touchdowns on 122 carries. Before an injury suffered in last year’s Iron Bowl, many assumed Barron, now at safety, would depart early to play Sunday football. He ultimately decided to return to Tuscaloosa to lead one of the nation’s most vaunted defensive units.
Bobby Jackson, DB Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1957 – ’58 (0 – 2)
Jackson, a multi-sport star at Murphy, was Coach Bryant’s first quarterback at Alabama. Bryant lost to LSU at Ladd Stadium in his inaugural match of 1958, but the game is best remembered as the night the temporary wooden bleachers in the north end zone collapsed under the weight of 1, 500 people, injuring 70. “It scared us all, let me tell you, ” Jackson was quoted as saying in the Press-Register’s front-page story. “Coach Bryant was not very happy, but he didn’t get real mad.”
Michael Ausmus, DB Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1992 – ’94 (2 – 1)
A scrappy role player who fit perfectly into Gene Stallings’ scheme, Ausmus lost a state championship game at Murphy in 1990 before winning a national title with Alabama in ’92.
Willie Gaston, DB Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1992 – ’94 (2 – 1)
In his junior season at Murphy, Gaston blocked five extra points and had four interceptions. Gaston relied heavily on speed and instincts to create plays for the Alabama defense. Recently, Gaston was head coach of the Mobile Bay Tarpons in the Southern Indoor Football League before the team quietly disintegrated in spring of this year.
Keith McCants, LB Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1988 – ’89 (0 – 2) Perhaps too often deemed “the greatest linebacker that never was, ” McCants’ is a story of how quickly dreams can fade into nightmares, can shift as smoothly as the gears of a European sports car. A star linebacker at Murphy and Alabama, McCants left after his junior year and received a then-record $2.5 million dollar cash signing bonus as the fourth overall pick. Hampered by ailing knees, McCants had trouble adjusting to the NFL, and its lifestyle, and was cut before the ’93 season. He retired from professional football in 1995.
Lee Roy Jordan, LB Excel High School, Iron Bowls: 1960 – ’62 (3 – 0)
Auburn offered but later withdrew a scholarship to the Excel standout – a decision the school would come to rue, as Alabama outscored its rival 75 – 0 during Jordan’s three seasons. The Excel native, simply too dominant to fall victim to our Mobile- and-Baldwin- counties-only policy, logged a record 31 tackles in his final game with the Tide, a 17 – 0 victory over Oklahoma in the 1963 Orange Bowl. “He was one of the finest football players the world has ever seen, ” Coach Bryant once said of Jordan, who does have a house and business interests in the Bay area. “If runners stayed between the sidelines, he tackled them.”
Randy Rockwell, LB Fairhope High School, Iron Bowls: 1984 – ’87 (2 – 2) As a senior for the Pirates, Rockwell collected three fumbles and seven quarterback sacks. Not highly recruited out of high school, he willed his way to an All-SEC career and the cocaptainship of the 1987 Alabama team.
John Mitchell, DL Williamson High School, Iron Bowls: 1971 – ’72 (1 – 1)
Along with Wilbur Jackson, Mitchell became one of the first two black players to start for the Tide. He was selected as an All-American and cocaptain of the team his senior year. Mitchell played linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, after which he returned to the South to topple more racial barriers. In 1990, he became the SEC’s first black defensive coordinator after a promotion at LSU. He is currently defensive line coach of the Steelers.
Charlie Harris, DL Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1965 – ’67 (3 – 0) Harris was an integral part of Alabama’s 1965 National Championship, as well as the 11 – 0 campaign the following year. He recovered a fumble in the Tide’s dismantling of Nebraska in the ’67 Sugar Bowl.
Antwan Odom, DL Alma Bryant High School, Iron Bowls: 2000 – ’03 (1 – 3)
Those who were at the game still talk about it: Theodore was beating rival Bryant 13 – 10 with only seconds left. Out of field goal range, the Hurricanes’ quarterback hurled the ball toward a jumble of players in the end zone. From the mass arose Odom, a defensive end, to snag the ball for the game-winning touchdown. In an interview his senior year, Odom remembered, “I landed on the ball when I hit the ground, and it knocked the air out of me. I didn’t care though. I got up and started celebrating.”
Paul Christopher Harris, DL Toulminville High School, Iron Bowls: 1974 – ’76 (3 – 0) The Tide was 32 – 5 over Harris’s three years, thanks in large part to the team’s suffocating defenses. Harris played in 20 games in the NFL, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings.
Mike Fuller, DB Shaw High School, Iron Bowls: 1972 – ’74 (1 – 2) Fuller was born in Jackson, Miss., but moved to Mobile and attended Shaw. He stayed in state to play for Coach “Shug” Jordan at Auburn, where he was an All-American defensive back and kick returner. Many of his punt return records still stand, and his countenance now appears on a mural in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Terry Fuller, DB Shaw High School, Iron Bowls: 1975 – ’76 (0 – 2) As a receiver for the Tigers, Terry became one of quarterback Phil Gargis’s go-to targets by the time he graduated, but we couldn’t resist sticking him in the defensive backfield next to his brother, Mike. Terry stepped onto the field at Auburn the year after his brother graduated.
Mickey Sutton, DB Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1962 – ’64 (1 – 2) A track star for the Panthers, Sutton played offensive halfback and defensive back at Auburn. A newspaper article from August 1963, discussing the important role doctors would play in Auburn’s season, recounted that “Sutton, who fell from a pickup truck last May and suffered a head injury, is another doubtful starter.”
David King, DB Fairhope High School, Iron Bowls: 1981 – ’84 (2 – 2) King is remembered by fan and foe alike for his bone-crushing hits, but some may still know him as one of the most well-rounded players to ever wear blue and orange. A model and accomplished member of the Auburn University Dance Troupe, King also studied jazz and ballet. The one-of-a-kind King earned All-SEC laurels two times in his career, not counting a freshman season in which he recorded 67 tackles and two interceptions.
Bobby Strickland, LB Grand Bay High School, Iron Bowls: 1968 – ’70 (2 – 1) Strickland, a walk-on, played with a fiery disposition that earned him All-SEC honors in 1970. As a senior, with his team up 56 – 0 on Mississippi State, he suffered a career- ending broken leg. He tallied 10 interceptions at Auburn.
Alex Lincoln, LB Murphy High School, Iron Bowls: 1999 – 2000 (1 – 1)
A native of Meridian, Miss., Lincoln was an All-State linebacker his senior year at Murphy. His career at Auburn earned him two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before he retired due to injuries.
Darrel Crawford, LB Fairhope High School, Iron Bowls: 1988 – ’91 (2 – 2) Crawford helped the Tigers reach 6 – 0 – 1 in 1990 by batting down a Mississippi State PAT near the final whistle. (He was also politically active during his time on campus, and famously set fire to a Confederate flag before Kappa Alpha’s last “Old South” parade through Auburn.)
Antonio Coleman, DL Williamson High School, Iron Bowls: 2006 – ’08 (2 – 1) Coleman notched a flat-out scary 154 tackles and 22 sacks during his senior season at Williamson. At Auburn, Coleman was named a starter as a sophomore and led the team with 18.5 tackles for loss. Coleman returned to Mobile this summer to conduct the Antonio Coleman Second Chance Football Camp for troubled local boys at the Strickland Youth Center.
Nick Fairley, DL Williamson High School, Iron Bowls: 2009 – ’10 (1 – 1) While dominating opponents on both sides of the ball in high school, Fairley also managed to catch five passes for 150 yards as a tight end. After two years at Copiah- Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Miss., Fairley returned to the state and won a national championship and the 2009 Lombardi Trophy at Auburn.
Sen’Derrick Marks, DL Vigor High School, Iron Bowls: 2006 – ’08 (2 – 1)
Legend has it that Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville walked into Vigor’s gym with no intentions of recruiting any players. But just as he entered, the 260-pound Marks took off from the free- throw line and slammed home a powerful dunk. Tuberville immediately recognized the player’s potential and later told Sports Illustrated, “I recruited him for one reason. He’s a great basketball player.”
Rick Telhiard, DL McGill Catholic School, Iron Bowls: 1973 – ’75 (0 – 3)
Telhiard was an All-SEC performer and Auburn’s lone representative in the 1976 Senior Bowl. Discussing a close game with Georgia Tech in ’75, the Glomerata, Auburn’s yearbook, said Telhiard “played an excellent game on, and off, the field. His scuffle with a Tech guard seemed to fire up the Tigers to its 31 – 27 win.”
GaryElvis Britt, LB Williamson High School, Iron Bowl: 1977 (1 – 0) With his days as a linebacker over, Britt went into the Elvis- impersonation field. Still performing out of Plant City, Fla., Britt legally had “Elvis”tacked onto his first name.
John Irwin Burgett, OT Mobile High School, Iron Bowls: 1893 – ’94 (1 – 1) Burgett was a member of the first Alabama team to beat Auburn in 1894. He was also a talented baseball player and president of UA’s Athletic Association.
Walter Holcombe, QB Mobile High School, Iron Bowls: – Holcombe led the offense for the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama and also returned punts. He was 5 – 1 – 1 as a starter for the 1896 and ’97 teams, coached by the legendary John Heisman, but never faced off against Alabama.
Anthony Mix, WR Baldwin County High School, Iron Bowls: 2002 – ’05 (4 – 0) Following an on-again, off-again NFL career, Mix now catches passes for the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers.
Look for “Lectron” to provide more electricity than Alabama Power with some high-voltage runs. “The Snake” will scramble all day, but Auburn’s defense can not cheat up, lest they forget about Julio Jones screaming toward the end zone. What happens next? You decide!
Take our poll on who would take home the ultimate title. Be sure to tell us your final score prediction and which Bay-area players we left off.