Reality Check For Tailback Brandon Jacobs

Phillip Marshall comments on former Tiger tailback Brandon Jacobs, who is transferring down a division after failing to crack the starting lineup at AU.

Even before he left town, Brandon Jacobs fired his parting shots.

Jacobs came to Auburn amid great fanfare in December 2002 from Coffeyville Community College. He was a 6-4, 260-pound running back with the speed of a sprinter. Auburn fans salivated over the thought of Jacobs plowing through SEC defensive backs.

But like so many others before him, Jacobs discovered that reality was not nearly as wonderful as he thought it would be. He couldn't beat out Carnell Williams or Ronnie Brown. He was the third-team tailback, relegated to mopping up against beaten down, overmatched teams.

Before spring practice, Jacobs announced he would transfer to Division I-AA Southern Illinois for his senior season. He'll move there this summer.

He could have gone quietly, but he didn't. He could have shaken hands with his Auburn coaches and teammates, wished them the best and left with the best wishes of Auburn folks everywhere, but he didn't.

Brandon Jacobs is shown during an Auburn practice last season.

In an interview with The Daily Egyptian, the Southern Illinois student newspaper, Jacobs cut loose with a torrent of criticism of Auburn's program and of the city of Auburn. And the public saw what Jacobs' teammates already knew.

Jacobs was never about Auburn or about winning. He was never about standing shoulder to shoulder with his teammates to take on the next challenge. No, Jacobs was always about himself. That's why his teammates shed no tears when he said he was leaving.

Some things Jacobs said in the interview were exaggerations. Some were simply not true. Students never chanted "Brandon sucks." No one ever promised him he would start ahead of Williams and Brown. He was promised a chance, nothing more and nothing less.

Jacobs worked with running backs coach Eddie Gran for more than a year. He worked with linebackers coach Joe Whitt, beloved by his players like few others, during bowl practice. Neither made an impression on Jacobs.

"I've never really grown a relationship with any of these coaches," Jacobs said last December. "I learn from them and that's it."

The college football landscape is littered with the broken dreams of high school and junior college phenoms who got into the fast lane and couldn't keep up. Some quit. Some hang around and get their degrees. Some transfer, but the geographic cure usually doesn't help much.

Jacobs was a solitary figure on Auburn's football team. He lived alone and seldom reached out to his teammates. They could see the obvious--Jacobs was, at best, Auburn's No. 3 tailback. Jacobs never could see it, and soon he began to pout.

Eventually he left, unhappy and apparently bitter. That's really too bad.

Jacobs, even in the season of his discontent, was a favorite among the fans. Had he left with kind words, had he embraced the Auburn spirit even as he left, he would have been accepted into the Auburn Family forever. But he couldn't or wouldn't see that.

It was something of a miracle that Jacobs ever made it to Auburn. He didn't graduate from high school, but he passed the GED and graduated from junior college early so he could report to Auburn in time for bowl practice at the end of the 2002 season. That took hard work and dedication, and he deserves credit.

But for the first time in his life, Jacobs was not the star when he arrived at Auburn. He soon found his teammates didn't care how many yards he'd gained in junior college or what a superstar he'd been in high school. He couldn't cope.

Maybe he'll be a star again in Division I-AA. Maybe he will accomplish the only goal that seems important to him and play in the NFL. Maybe he'll reach out to his teammates at Southern Illinois. Nothing Jacobs has done or said means he's a bad person. He's not. But before he starts slinging mud again, he might want to take a look at who it really is that is getting dirty.

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