T.J. Says "Auburn Is In Your Heart"

Auburn senior Tommy Jackson talks about his final Iron Bowl game against Alabama and his final game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.--Noseguard T.J. Jackson grew up in Opelika cheering for the Crimson Tide, but now has a chance on Saturday to beat the Alabama for the fourth time in four years as an Auburn Tiger.

"I don't know how many people can say they've gone through college when that's happened," Jackson says about the possibility of never losing to Auburn's biggest rival. The last time either program won four consecutive games in the series is when Pat Dye's Auburn teams won from 1986-1989.

"I was on the wrong side when I was young," Jackson says. "I was on the wrong side. You know how kids are. When you're young you don't know any better. That's who my folks grew up with. They loved them back in the day. Before I came to Auburn that's all they knew and that's all they loved. Now they're Auburn fans and they've converted."

Jackson says he changed his mind about the two schools during his recruitment and adds that his choice to go to Auburn was one that he will forever be happy with.

"My senior year of high school I fell in love with this place," he says. "This is Auburn. You've got to love Auburn. Auburn's great and you don't get any better than Auburn, honestly.

"You can go around all of the campuses and all of the people and there is nothing like Auburn," Jackson adds. "Travis (Travis Williams) said one of the best things I've heard in a long time... ‘You just don't wear Auburn, Auburn is in your heart.'"

Jackson's personality makes him a favorite of the fans and media.

Since Jackson arrived at Auburn in the fall of 2002 the Tigers have beaten Alabama all three times, winning 17-7 in 2002, 28-23 in 2003 and 21-13 in 2004. Jackson says the possibility to beat the cross-state rival for the fourth time is something he would love to accomplish in his final regular season contest in an Auburn uniform.

"The opportunity that we have in front of us is great," he says. "If we're able to pull out the win that would be sweet. This is one of the biggest things you can do in a college career. We're playing against our arch-rival and with the opportunity you have.

"That's a great football team up there," he adds. "They're a really great football team so it's going to be important for us to study this week and be able to go out there and play some good football."

Auburn enters the game with a 8-2 overall record and 6-1 league mark while being ranked 11th and 12th in the polls. Alabama, having its best season in recent years, is ranked eighth in the polls with a 9-1 record, 6-1 in the SEC.

"This is still the Iron Bowl," Jackson says. "Both could be 0-10 and it would still be a huge game. They're going to come in and play hard but so are we. We're enjoying it and it's my last game. We're going to give it all we've got because this is it. After this, hopefully we'll win, then we just have to play the waiting game and see what happens."

Both Auburn and Alabama need LSU to lose to either Ole Miss or Arkansas to have a chance to play for the SEC Title in Atlanta on Dec. 3.

While all of the Auburn seniors have a long list of on the field accomplishments, Jackson, who says he would one day like to be the governor of Alabama, says that his four years at Auburn have opened the door for success for the rest of his life.

"Auburn has opened it wide open for me," he says of his lifetime possibilities. "Can you imagine four years ago, a little short kid playing nose tackle and they said, ‘Will this dude even go to college?' Then I get here and now they're saying, ‘He can play ball at the next level.'

"That's nothing but Auburn," Jackson adds. "God put me in a position to be at Auburn. That chokes me up, seriously, and I love this place. I'm always going to try to take care of it because it's done so much for me."

Jackson admittedly wasn't the greatest student in high school, but decided to get very serious about his academics in college graduated from Auburn in just three years with a degree in public administration. He is playing his senior year as a graduate student before pursuing an NFL career, where he will definitely have a shot.

"I've come a long way," he says. "I've leaped. It's been amazing. You become a man when you go to college and you have to grow up fast. Especially with the coaching staff, guys you grow up with, things you see, examples people leave for you. It's amazing. I've had a great time here."

Jackson adds that Tommy Tuberville and the rest of the Auburn coaches have instilled a personal discipline in him that has carried over from the football field to the classroom and the rest of his life.

"Your personal life, school, all things because you can't cut corners to be a great football player," he notes. "Unless you realize that and you say, ‘If I can do this on the field, why can't I can't I be that kind of student and why can't I be that kind of person?' You just take it with you."

Now in his last home game in an Auburn uniform, Jackson has one more thing to accomplish at Jordan-Hare Stadium as an Auburn Tiger: beating Alabama.

"I might tear up," he says of Saturday's contest. "I'm going to be jacked. I can't put it any other way. It'll be my last time in the stadium. I'm almost sad for it to come, but it couldn't be any better. It's like a story book and somebody wrote this."


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