Making all that possible is a huge group of volunteers led by Ron Anders, John Wild and D. Mark Mitchell. Starting months in advance of the event getting things ready, the group has been hard at work making sure the teams and their fans have the best experience possible this week on the Plains.
“It’s a labor of love,” Anders said. “It’s quite an honor to be involved with something that’s so meaningful in the lives of those participating in it. It’s quite an honor to be involved with something that shines the light on your community, your university and its football program. It’s nothing but a great opportunity for us. It’s a ton of work, but we are very fortunate that we have done this two times. We are working on our third rotation and we have learned some great lessons.”
The first challenge is making it all work. Playing football on a fall Saturday is a challenging undertaking for Auburn University, but playing seven games in three days while classes are in session and it’s a different tougher situation. There will also be an Auburn home basketball game on Friday night. That requires communication from all levels to make sure things run smoothly, something Anders noted has been there since the first day they began planning for the Super 7 this year.
“It’s a massive, massive undertaking,” Anders said. “It starts with Jay Jacobs and Jeff Steele in the athletic department. Jay appointed Jeff Steele to be our point person and he has been unbelievable to work with. He gets it. He wants it to be successful and knows it’s important. He knows its important to the Auburn Athletic Department and to Auburn University. He has availed to us all the resources he can provide to us.
“He coordinates with the university to make sure we have everything we need and that everyone knows what’s going on. It is the last three days of class (fall semester) so it is chaotic on campus. We have got a lot of people that have bought in to what this event is about and they make all of it possible because it is very complicated when you bring 50,000 people on a campus that is active and working on a daily basis.”
While having the state title games at a venue like Jordan-Hare Stadium would be enough of an experience to last a lifetime for the players and coaches this week, Auburn wanted to take it the extra mile when they first got an opportunity to host the Super 6 four years ago. That meant trying to replicate the Tiger Walk tradition for every team. Scheduling and making sure every school had the opportunity to see that special part of Auburn tradition was important and it’s something Anders said has become his favorite part of the week.
“When you see the eyes of these young people when they get off that bus and see the line of people waiting for them and knowing this is the same thing that Auburn’s team does, even though it looks a little different, to me it’s one of the highlights of the whole deal,” Anders said. “At that point and time nobody is undefeated, nobody has lost, and they’re all hopeful and very excited. It’s a very special event.
“We have had everything from high fives and pure joy to tears of emotion. It’s the realization that you’re here. When you get off that bus it’s on. You’re at the big stadium and you’ve made it a long way to get to that point. It’s just the culmination that you’ve really made it and that Tiger Walk is special. My guess is that most of the people that will come to that game to support their team will be at that Tiger Walk.”
The events get started with something new this year as the first-ever Unified Sports state game with teams from Hewitt-Trussville and Lawrence County will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday with the 7A title game between Hoover and Prattville to follow at 7 p.m. Unified Sports is a program that combines an approximately equal number of students with intellectual disabilities with “partners” (individuals without intellectual disabilities) on teams for training and competition. The concept was inspired by the principle: “Training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”
That will kick off what Anders expects to be an exciting three days of football and fun that he hopes has people excited about the experience and wanting to be a part of things once again in two more years.
“We’ve added a bunch of things this year,” Anders said. “There is a whole extra day for the 7A game and the new concept of having the unified game for Special Olympics, which is a great idea. It has gotten bigger and we hope after this week everyone will view it as being better.”
Super 7 Schedule
Class 7A State Championship, Wednesday, Dec. 3
Hoover vs. Prattville, 7 p.m.
Class 3A State Championship, Thursday, Dec. 4
Dale County vs. Madison Academy, 11 a.m.
Class 1A State Championship, Thursday, Dec. 4
Maplesville vs. Hubbertville, 3 p.m.
Class 5A State Championship, Thursday, Dec. 4
St. Paul’s vs. Pleasant Grove, 7 p.m.
Class 4A State Championship, Friday, Dec. 5
Leeds vs. Deshler, 11 a.m.
Class 2A State Championship, Friday, Dec. 5
Elba vs. Fyffe, 3 p.m.
Class 6A State Championship, Friday, Dec. 5
Saraland vs. Clay-Chalkville, 7 p.m.
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