Working out for just under two hours in full pads Auburn closed the books on pre-bowl drills with a spirited session that saw the young players have a full contact scrimmage to end the practice. Coach Tommy Tuberville noted that it's going to be tough to see this group leave after all they've accomplished.
"We had a good practice today," Tuberville said. "It is a sentimental moment because this is the last time these seniors will practice here on this field. They have been a great group to work with and we are very proud of them and their accomplishments.
"There hasn't been a better group of seniors to play at this university. We have had good practices this last six days and have gotten a lot out of it. These guys are looking forward to their Christmas break and they deserve a great holiday. We will come back after Christmas and see what happens."
While the young players took advantage of the day to get extra work in, the older players such as quarterback Jason Campbell soaked it all in. The senior said that it hadn't really hit him yet that he was done practicing at Auburn until he got on the field Wednesday morning.
"It was fun," Campbell said. "It's all about the game and getting focused, but at the same time we wanted to enjoy today and have fun for the seniors that are leaving. I think we had a good practice. Basically we just wanted to have fun today. It was our last one. You don't want to be all uptight. You want to enjoy this one because it's my last one on the Auburn campus.
"It's kind of hard to believe because it's gone by so fast," he added. "The season went by so fast. It seems like we played LSU a year ago already. It's just how everything has taken place. We're just taking it in stride because it doesn't get any better than what we're doing as far as this season and enjoying this bowl game."
The last practice of the year in Auburn is always followed by the senior players attacking their position coaches at the end. Wednesday was no different as Bret Eddins, Jay Ratliff and Doug Langenfeld all went after defensive ends coach Terry Price while Hugh Nall fought off the onslaught of seniors Jeremy Ingle, Danny Lindsey and Rich Trucks. Campbell said he thought about getting Borges, but decided to wait until next week.
"He escaped today, but he won't in New Orleans," Campbell said of Borges. "We've got a couple of days to come up with a plan and we're going to have him circled. I told him he better take his Hawaiian shirts and go to California for Christmas because we're taking up a donation to buy him some clothes."
Following a long season of football that began back in August, Campbell said that he's looking forward to spending some quality time with his family at home in Taylorsville, Miss. Expected to be a high draft choice in the NFL Draft next spring, Campbell may not have many more Christmas' to spend at home and is ready to enjoy this one.
"I'm just ready to get home and get some home cooking," Campbell said. "I'm just tired of eating fast food and running around trying to scramble for some food. I'm going to go home and sit on the couch and let my momma bring me some food."
One person who most players would not miss is strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall, but that's not the case with Campbell. While he said he won't miss the workouts the bond built during those hours together is what he said made this team what it is, a champion.
"I enjoyed working out with Coach Yox," Campbell said. "He's a great coach. I just always told him I've seen this field more than any place else. I saw this field way more than I saw my field during junior high or high school. That's a whole lot of time. I remember the hill and the sled at 5:30 in the morning. Those will be the things you remember the most, the hard work you had together as a team. How we were pushing ourselves when there were icicles on the ground. We're out here at 5:30 in February flipping and rolling together. Those are the things you remember the most."
As Auburn said goodbye to a great group of seniors, the future stepped forward in a practice filled with a contact and a lot of emotion. A mix of the second and third-team offense and defense scrimmaged for nearly 20 plays to close the day with Kenny Irons showing out at running back along with Jerald Watson. Defensively Lorenzo Ferguson looked good in the secondary as he broke up several long passes from Brandon Cox.
While that was happening the seniors were taking the time to talk to each other and remember the good times. Campbell said that running back Carnell Williams was particularly excited about his last pass thrown from Campbell at practice. So much so that he took it home with him.
"Carnell is so crazy," Campbell said. "He took a football and was talking about "this is my last catch from Jason Campbell" and then he signed it. He said it was his last catch at Auburn University and he's taking it home with him. That's what has gotten us to this point, the unity we have. It's the best team unity that we've had in all the years that I've been here."
Auburn will resume practices on Dec. 29 in New Orleans with three scrimmages in the Superdome the first three days back to work. Kickoff for the Jan. 3 game is scheduled for 7 p.m.