Clanton, Ala.--One of Auburn's most popular players as well as one of the most important to an offense last season that featured a new quarterback and running backs, Jake Slaughter helped to bridge the gap from 2004 to 2005 with his selfless attitude on the field and hard-nosed blocking. Because of that he was honored Tuesday night and joins a select group that goes back to the first award was presented in 1966.
That year Chilton County native John McAfee was the first winner of the award. Since that time the club has given out the award every year with names such as Coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan, Mike Neel, Roger Mitchell, Al Del Greco, Sonny Smith, Tommy Agee, Reggie Herring, Herb Waldrop, David Housel, Joe Whitt, Hal Baird and others past winners. Two recent winners were represented Tuesday night as 2000 recipient Jimmy Brumbaugh was on hand as well as last season's winner Jeremy Ingle. Slaughter said seeing some of the past winner's made him realize just how special the award was.
"After being at this banquet I can tell it's such as special award," Slaughter said. "I have looked at the people that got it before me and every one of those guys is amazing. They are really special men. It's more of a team player award and I can tell that by the guys that have gotten it before. It's a huge, huge honor for me and one of the most special events I've ever been to. I'm just excited to receive the award."
Slaughter is a big, physical fullback that should fit in well in the NFL because of his blocking prowess.
An Auburn man through and through, Slaughter said that the award just puts the finishing touches on a career that couldn't have gone any better for him and at a place he'll never forget. "This just puts it's all together and cements it (his time at Auburn)," Slaughter said. "It's a great way to say goodbye almost. I'll definitely be coming back to the games when I can around my football schedule, but this is a great goodbye and a great way to say thank you to Auburn."
Slaughter now turns his attention to the NFL and trying to make the team with the Kansas City Chiefs. With former Auburn fullback Tony Richardson gone from the team and moving on to Minnesota, the starting fullback position is open with the Chiefs and Slaughter said that he's going to do his best to try to carry on the Auburn legacy at the position.
"There have been two mini-camps and a bunch of OTA practices, which are basically normal practices," Slaughter said. "Things are going really good. They had four fullbacks at first and cut one guy the first day. I ended up beating out the second-string guy and they sent him home. I was running second-string behind Ronnie Cruz and doing really well and I ended up pulling my hamstring, which was bad luck. They brought a guy in from NFL Europe (J.R. Niklos) to play fullback and there's three of us again. Going into fall camp I'll have to beat him out and hopefully earn a starting position. It's a challenge, but I'm going to get it done."
While the job is tough because of the physical demands, Slaughter said that's just the beginning of things in the NFL. When asked what the biggest differences in the college game versus the NFL game, Slaughter didn't hesitate to answer.
"The biggest difference is the mental part and the pressure," Slaughter said. "They want to put as much pressure on you as they can to see what kind of man you are mentally and physically. The playbook is the biggest thing I've ever seen in my life. I have been studying every single night and it's something where you've got to do your best to memorize a lot of things. It's a challenge and I'm going to do my best to succeed."
Before walking off into the sunset to take a vacation with his family, Slaughter said that he had one final message for the Auburn fans that have supported him over his career. "I would just say thank you," Slaughter said. "Thank you for an amazing experience and the best years of my life. It has been a great overall experience."