Honored by his alma mater on the 40th anniversary of becoming the first of three Auburn Heisman Trophy winners, Sullivan's Bulldogs fought hard for four quarters before falling 35-16 to a bigger, stronger and heavily-favored opponent. However, Sullivan and his team were able to leave the field where the former Auburn quarterback had some many memorable performances with their heads held high.
" "I wanted to win the ball game,"?he said. "The positive side is that I felt our kids came in and put it all on the line. When we got to the fourth quarter, they finally washed us down and did some things."
The 1971 Heisman Trophy winner said he appreciated being remembered on his return to Auburn. "It was special," he said. "I did not anticipate all of this when we made the game a couple of years ago. When we made the game I was just trying to help Samford make some money to pay the bills and buy new uniforms.
"I would not be standing here without my wife, Jean,"?he said. "Going all the way back to our days in college, she has been the rock in our family. She takes care of me and she reminds me that I do not want to wake up when I am 50 years old and not be doing something that I love. That is a commitment that a lot of people do not make this day.
"Having my teammates back was important," Sullivan said. "If I had anything that I could change, I would have my father and Coach (Shug) Jordan here. I know I did not win any award without my teammates and coaches and I know they felt the part today like they did forty years ago.
Pat Sullivan acknowledges the crowd.
"My new family, the Samford family, has kids here that have never experienced something like this," Sullivan said. "Hopefully, that has given them some idea of what we talk about all of the time-- that these relationships are important. It was good to see guys like David Housel and Dr. (James) Andrews. I remember when Dr. Andrews was just a young guy working for (Kenny) Howard."
Commenting on the pre-game ceremony, which included a salute to the coach from current members of the Auburn team, Sullivan said. "It was certainly the way I wanted it. It was very appropriate and nicely done. One of the things I did not know until the end of the week was that both teams were going to be involved. I really appreciate Coach Chizik and the Auburn team being a part of it."
When Sullivan one the Heisman he was on campus as Auburn was preparing to play a game. When the news got out Sullivan's teammates, coaches and others gathered at Memorial Coliseum to celebrate.
On of those teammates was the Ronnie Ross, who was on the receiving end of Sullivan's first varsity touchdown pass in college. "Ronnie Ross was the captain of our team my junior year," Sullivan pointed out. "He passed away with cancer about a year ago. He was one of our leaders, everyone was close to him. He caught the first touchdown pass I ever threw. When we were taking pictures before the game, one of my teammates came up to me and said, ‘I have Ronnie's ashes, and I am going to put them where he caught your first touchdown pass.' I will never forget that."
Samford finished its season with a 6-5 record while Auburn improved to 7-4 with one game remaining.
"I was talking to Coach Chizik and his staff, I know all of them, they have an outstanding football team and their future is going to be bright," Sullivan said. "They have a lot of the pieces and Michael Dyer is a heck of a running back. The scheme that they run, with their linebackers and two-back, are big time players.
"The other thing that had a big impact on the game was their kicking game. Their kicker (Cody Parkey) puts it in the end zone every time. It puts us at the 20 and it gives us a long field to play on, which makes it tough. Their punter puts it up for about four and a half seconds every time. It makes a big difference because it puts us back 40 to 45 yards every time, and it makes it tough."