"It's a great honor," said Fairley. "Knowing that Coach Rocker had won in 1988, and seeing all the other great names on that trophy, adding my name to it is a tremendous honor.
"I just thank God for putting me in the situation I'm in," Fairley said. "I saw the smile on Coach Rocker's face and knew that he's very proud of me. Then I saw my mom and dad and I knew they're proud of me, too.
Fairley (left) and Rocker are shown at the ceremony in Houston.
"I want to congratulate the other finalists because they're amazing players and people, and I want to thank the Auburn family for all the support they've given me."
Fairley said that he is thoroughly enjoying being a part of an unbeaten football team that will play Oregon for the BCS Championship on January 10th. "It's been a lot of fun and I have especially enjoyed seeing the seniors have this type of season," he said.
"I am just trying to do my part as a member of the defense," he added. "Auburn's defense was made great long before we got here. I am just trying to keep it going."
In Auburn's 56-17 SEC Football Championship Game victory over South Carolina on Saturday, Fairley set an Auburn single-season record with his 21st tackle for lost yardage. With one game remaining he has 10 1/2 quarterback sacks, which is fourth for one season in Auburn history.
Rocker said that he has been pleased with how much Fairley has improved in his second season at Auburn after transferring to AU.
"He can run, he can jump, he is strong as an ox and the most important thing this year is that Nick understands what everybody is supposed to do on defense," Rocker said.
Nick Fairley and the Tigers have a 13-0 record this season.
Since Fairley arrived at Auburn in the summer of 2009 after spending two years in junior college, Rocker has talked to the defensive tackle about the importance of becoming a complete football player. The coach said that a major reason the 2010 version of Fairley is playing better than the 2009 version is the amount of preparation time Fairley is putting into each game.
"He has taken it upon himself to become educated about the game of football and is no longer just waiting until we coaches come in and say, ‘This is what you need to do.' Now he is looking at video and will say, ‘Coach, you know if so and so does this or this, I think I am going to be able to work this or that.'
"Now that Nick is attuned to the game and understanding it he has found out there is more to it," Rocker added. "That is the self motivation part of football I am trying to sell a lot of the players on. I tell them to take the initiative and then see what you can get out of it."
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik reacts with joy as Fairley (right) is announced as the winner of the Lombardi.
Also on Wednesday the defensive lineman was named to another All-SEC team, this one selected by the league's coaches.
Nick Fairley (left) signs an autograph.
Fairley was in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this week where he was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award won by Da'Quan Bowers of Clemson. Bowers was a finalist for the Lombardi Trophy along with defensive end Adrian Clayborn of Iowa and center Jake Kirkpatrick of TCU. He is also in the mix for another national honor, the Chuck Bednarik Award, which will be announced on Thursday.
The Lombardi Award has been presented annually since 1970. Fairley joins Rocker, who also won the 1988 Outland Trophy, plus 1971 and 1985 Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson as national football award winners from Auburn along with 1958 Outland Trophy winner Zeke Smith and 2004 Thorpe Award winner Carlos Rogers.