Auburn, Ala.--Members of the unbeaten 2004 Auburn Tigers haven’t changed their opinion over the years that they were the nation’s best college football team.
Coach Tommy Tuberville’s Tigers won the SEC Championship, but were left out of the BCS Championship Game when the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams ran the table and met in the title game. Southern Cal cruised past Oklahoma in the title game, but had its title vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
It took a full decade for the powers of college football to change to a four-team playoff system, but it finally happened for the 2014 season, which happens to be the first time members of the 2004 team returned to Auburn as a group for an official reunion.
Tuberville, who is the head coach of the University of Cincinnati, made the trip to Auburn this weekend and reminded players attending the reunion of something he told them after the Tigers wrapped up their season with a victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
“I told that group that what you did this year will change college football,” Tuberville said. “It took 10 years, but now we are in a four-team playoff. If that year didn’t happen, if we had lost a game and not put the controversy on like it was, I don’t think it would have ever happened.
“It put all kinds of pressure on TV, pressure on the presidents,” he added. “This year when you watch the playoffs, and hopefully Auburn is in it, you will have an opportunity to say they are doing it because of the year we had in 2004. That is something you can always think about, talk about and brag about to your friends.”
Tuberville added, “Although you didn’t get the most votes, in the eyes of most people you were the best team and I will never not believe that.”
Devin Aromashdou, who has returned to Auburn to finish his business degree after retiring from pro football, said that Tuberville is right about the 2004 Tigers. “We were really good,” the wide receiver remembered. “We had a lot of experience. Really, that team was the total package.”
Devin Aromashodu is shown in action playing for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.
Aromashodu said that he believes the 2004 squad could have defeated any team that has played SEC football in recent years. “I am not alone because a lot of people think that,” he said. “We were good at every spot.”
The 2004 squad led the nation in scoring defense allowing 11.3 points per game and ranked No. 1 in the SEC for scoring at 32.1 points per contest.
Another player from that team who played in the NFL, offensive tackle Marcus McNeil, remembers the 2004 Tigers as a special group. “We were like a family,” he said. “We were inseparable and when we went out on that field we were like a band of brothers out there playing football.”
McNeil was a standout performer for the San Diego Chargers.
McNeil started Tower Mack, a construction company in 2010 in Atlanta, before he retired from the NFL. He pointed out that he really enjoyed his time at Auburn, particularly the 2004 season. “Throughout my years I?have seen that whenever you have great chemistry you are going to be a tough team to beat, and that is exactly what we were. We had talent on both sides of the ball and I think it was one of the best years of Auburn football.”
The 2004 Tigers defeated four Top 10 teams and only fell behind twice all season.
Another 2004 Tiger, Tim Duckworth, said he has thoroughly enjoyed seeing his teammates back at Auburn.
“We were a family and we took pride in being together,” he said. “Still to this day, 10 years later, we still enjoy being together. We had a great football team.
Duckworth, who traveled back to AU from Texas where he works for Marathon Oil, said, “We had a lot of great guys on our team like Jason Campbell, Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Jeris McIntyre, Travis Williams and a lot others, but it was not one individual that made us great, it was everybody. We truly were a team.”
Offensive lineman Danny Lindsey said that Duckworth is right on target with his comments on the team’s chemistry. “We were very close and we had a lot of leaders on the team,” Lindsey pointed out. “As a group we came together and gelled. We all had one goal in mind and we all worked towards that goal. It was a special group and we all trusted each other.
“On a championship team you have to have talent, but you also have to have trust that the person beside you was going to get the job done,” said Lindsey, who lives in Atlanta and works in pharmaceutical sales.
“Even though we didn’t get to play for it, I believe we were the best team in the country and if we had gotten to play USC that year we would have proven that,” Lindsey added.
“Now there is a playoff system we will really find out who the best team is. I?think from what happened to us, and the string of championships the SEC put together, that started the move for putting together some type of playoff.”