Senior noseguard Demarco McNeil says that it's time to move forward and prepare for what should be a challenging Music City Bowl opponent, the Wisconsin Badgers. McNeil makes it clear he was not happy with the AU administrators who got caught secretly negotiating a deal with Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino to take over as head coach from Tommy Tuberville. Petrino pulled out of the picture when his secret talks with Auburn officials became public knowledge. AU officials apologized to Tuberville and gave him a contract extension.
"Coach Tuberville has moved on so there's no need for the players to live in the past," McNeil says. "He forgave. It's probably not forgotten, but he moved forward. It's a great situation for us. We're not trying to go out there and win it for anyone in particular, we're just going to go out there and play a great football team in hopefully a great game. We're not doing it for one particular person."
Following a season that failed to live up to expectations, McNeil says he feels like this team is anxious to get back on the field just one more time to show what they are capable of doing. To have a memorable finish the Tigers will have to defeat a tough Wisconsin squad that has shown it has the capabilities to be a dangerous opponent. The Badgers have a win over Ohio State to prove it.
Demarco McNeil (92) has been a major contributor the past four seasons as a starter on the Auburn defensive line.
"Everything is out of the way now," McNeil says. "Now we're able to prepare for Wisconsin. They are a great ballclub that likes to run the ball. They are out of the Big 10 and it's going to be a challenge for us, especially on defense.
"It's very different," McNeil says of playing a team like Wisconsin. "It's a bowl game, that's what it's all about. You have two teams that really don't know anything about each other and are just going in there to play good football. We do know that they have a great receiver and a great running back and they beat the defending champs this year. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
For McNeil and 12 other Tigers this will be the final game in an Auburn uniform for a group that has a 32-18 overall mark during the last four seasons, including a 21-11 conference mark and three SEC Western Division Championships. During its tenure on the Plains, the 2003 senior class has helped Auburn to four bowl appearances, including two New Year's Day bowl games and a 21-5 record at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The 2003 seniors are the winningest Auburn senior class since the 1997 senior class won 35 games over a four-year period.
Playing the final game means one last chance to impress scouts from the various NFL teams that have been following the careers of the players since they became prospects for the next level at Auburn "I'm looking forward to it," McNeil says of the possibility of playing in the NFL.
"I've put five years in here, five years that I wouldn't want to give back. I've learned a lot, met new friends and have grown as a person. But five years in one spot is sometimes enough, especially when they are kicking you out, it's time to move on. I'm looking forward to it, but then again I hate to leave. It's just something that has to be done.
"I think my chances are better than the average person coming out of college," he says of his NFL prospects. "It's all about what you do. They've been evaluating me and I guess they like what they've seen so far. There's still a long way to go and a lot of work I have to put into it to get where I need to be. I'm not stopping right now I just want to keep moving forward."
Before he moves on McNeil says he's going to cherish just one more time playing in front of the Auburn fans. With a large following of Tiger supporters expected to be in Nashville for the Music City Bowl, he says that will be a fitting end to what has been an enjoyable career for him at Auburn.
"The fans here at Auburn have been supporting us for five years, in the good times and the bad," McNeil says. "Especially with the situation that just passed they are going to be behind us even more. What happened in the last few weeks is probably going to bring this university closer together. Some fans were probably saying Coach Tuberville needed to go, but after that situation they are behind him all the way. Some good is going to come out of the situation and hopefully we can get it started with a bowl victory on New Year's Eve."