The All-American safety personally had more interceptions as a senior in 1969 in 11 games than the entire 2005 Auburn football team produced in a 13-game schedule.
Starting every game in three varsity seasons in an era in which freshmen had to compete on separate teams, more than 25 years after he played his final down for the Tigers McClinton is still number one on the all-time Auburn lists for career interceptions (18) and interceptions in a single season (nine).
On Sunday night, McClinton was one of eight former athletes inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Included in that group are two others with Auburn connections--former football star Lionel "Little Train" James and former AU women's basketball coach Joe Ciampi.
"When I got the call from Coach Legg (hall of fame executive director William L. Legg) I am not sure I said anything for quite some time," McClinton remembers. "It seemed like forever. Hopefully, it was just for a few seconds.
"It was that phone call that nobody ever really expects to get," he says. "Surprised isn't even the word for it because you don't expect to go into the hall of fame when you look at the list of nominees that comes out every year. If your name happens to be on it, that is the honor right there. It is a truly great honor and I mean that with all my heart.
Buddy McClinton was a two-time All-SEC safety and a consenus All-American.
"When I was first nominated years ago, I was tickled to death to be nominated because the state of Alabama has produced some incredible sports legends," says McClinton, a successful and respected commercial real estate developer and broker in Montgomery who runs McClinton & Company. "I know all states probably have their claims to fame as it relates to sports legends, but the state of Alabama, just year after year, you look at the list and you say, ‘I didn't realize he was from Alabama' and you start reading their exploits you think there is no way in the world I am ever going to get into the hall of fame with them. When I got the call, it was humbling and a huge surprise."
A consensus All-American in 1969, his senior year McClinton was a big part of Auburn setting an NCAA record for single season interceptions (34) that stood for a quarter of a century.
A standout player at Robert E. Lee High in Montgomery for Coach Tom Jones, who became coach of McClinton's freshman team at Auburn, the safety played for head coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan, defensive coordinator Paul Davis and secondary coach Bill "Brother" Oliver.
Buddy McClinton is shown by his display case that is on exhibit at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham, which is located across the street from the Southeastern Conference headquarters.
"I loved Coach Jordan," says McClinton, who was also an academic All-American. "He was truly one of the finest gentlemen who ever graced the sideline.
"His door was always open," McClinton remembers. "In all my years at Auburn I never went by his office one time when his door wasn't open. He wanted to let you know you were always invited to come in and sit down with him. It didn't matter what you wanted to talk about, and it didn't matter if you were first-string or fifth-string. I truly enjoyed getting to play under such a gentlemen."
McClinton says that he was fortunate to play for Davis as well as his position coach, Oliver, who the safety calls a "defensive genius."
McClinton and his teammates in the secondary worked extremely well together and were tremendous at disguising coverages.
"Larry Willingham, who was a ‘world class athlete,' was in the secondary along with Don Webb, my roommate, and Merrill Shirley," McClinton remembers. "Larry is really the only one who had great athletic ability, but Coach Oliver took us and moulded us into one of the finest secondaries in the nation.
"Being a part of something like that, it was what being a team was all about," McClinton notes. "We weren't great individually, but being able to play like a well-oiled machine some of us got to get some accolades we would never have been able to get. I always thought Auburn got the best out of me. They always made me better than I was capable of being and that was true on the field and in the classroom."
Joining McClinton, Ciampi and James in the 38th induction class of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame are former Major League baseball players Bob Veale and Jim Davenport, the late stock car driver Tim Flock, FSU assistant head football coach Mickey Andrews and World Cup soccer star Mia Hamm.