Young Tiger Eager to Help To Beat Bama

An Auburn player who grew up in Bama Country explains why he can't wait for Saturday's Auburn vs. Alabama football contest.

Auburn, Ala.--For Auburn's Courtney Taylor, losing in football this week is not an option.

"This is going to be a huge game and you don't really have to say anything because everybody knows we have got to win," the redshirt freshman wide receiver says.

Courtney Taylor

Just in case somebody on the Auburn roster needs a pep talk about getting ready for the 6:45 p.m. showdown with archrival Alabama, Taylor is just the man to deliver the speech. "This game is a big part of my life, especially where I am from," says Taylor, who grew up a short drive from the Bama campus in Carrollton.

"This is a huge game for me," notes Taylor, who smiles and adds, "We are going to win. I am not worried about that. I need to go home and brag a little bit."

Auburn is playing to salvage a winning season and heal some wounded pride from a fall that has been a major disappointment. Auburn players expected to be using this year's Iron Bowl game as the last test on the way to a berth in the SEC Championship Game. However, Auburn limps into the showdown against its archrival with a struggling offense and a 6-4 record.

Alabama is doing even worse with just four victories in 11 tries. The Tigers are bowl eligible and will play a postseason game, but the only big game left on the 2003 schedule takes place on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Taylor was expected to be an even larger part of the 2003 offense than he has been based on how he performed last spring and in preseason drills, but he has been productive. He has caught a pass in every game this season. He had 12 receptions after his first two games, but the six-foot-two, 194-pound former high school quarterback's pace slowed after he was hit by nagging injuries. He has caught 26 passes for 283 yards going into the regular season finale and has started five times.

Taylor dives in an effort to make a catch on a long pass thrown vs. Vandy.

Last year, he had an up close and personal look at Auburn's 17-7 victory over the Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. He didn't play in 2002 while taking a redshirt season, but he was there in Tuscaloosa dressed in full uniform and he participated in the pre-game warmups. "I was excited being there, just like I was playing," says Taylor, who was also a basketball star at Carrollton High. He had his choice of playing either sport in college. He picked Auburn early and stuck with the Tigers despite pressure from Bama coaches to convince him to stay closer to home.

While many around him, including some family members, grew up cheering for Bama teams, Taylor was different. His childhood favorite team was FSU, but when it came time to pick a college he says that he felt more comfortable with selecting Auburn. That is why it was so easy for him to drive past the Bama campus and head further east to Auburn.

"I am going to try my best to make every play I can, no matter what," Taylor says of Saturday's Iron Bowl as the Tigers go for two straight wins in the rivalry. "If I make the play, that would be a dream come true."

After battling through nagging injuries all year, Taylor says he is primed both physically and mentally to get to play in the Iron Bowl for the first time. "I am ready right now," he says. "A couple of weeks ago, I couldn't tell you that. I think I am probably to 100 percent now. I am not limping like I used to at the end of practice.

Despite being less than full speed every week, Taylor has played on. He has a pass reception in every game this year and will probably have ample opportunities to extend that streak to an even dozen on Saturday.

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