Starting as a whip (hybrid linebacker/safety) his freshman season, Dede moved to safety and later to linebacker where he remained throughout his career. On Saturday Dede finished his final regular season with a victory over Alabama to help his senior class win its 40th game and become the winningest class in Auburn history.
The fifth-year seniors also will leave having never lost to Alabama in five years, just the second Auburn group to make that claim. Dede says that coming from Virginia he didn't really know what to expect in the rivalry, but after being a part of it for so long it's special to leave having never lost to the Crimson Tide.
"It's the greatest feeling," says Dede, who was in on eight tackles in the win at Tuscaloosa. "This rivalry is so strong. To be a part of it and the atmosphere and to be on the road and do it year after year, there haven't been too many classes that have been this successful.
"We really set ourselves up to really have to put up or shut up after last year when we put up the four fingers," he notes. "We had to come out and play good and we did."
All week long the Alabama players had talked and carried on about Auburn's four finger salute last season following a 28-18 win in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Never mind the fact that all week leading up to this year's game nothing but respect came from the Auburn players. Dede says that it was tough to keep your composure early on because of all the talking coming from the other side, but once things settled down it was a classic football game in every sense of the word.
"It lived up to it," Dede says. "There was so much talk going on before the game and during the game. All the hype and anticipation makes this as hard a hitting game as there is. It's the greatest rivalry in all of sports. It played out that way. There were times when we were down and times when they were down, but I don't think any team stopped believing until the final bell."
Dede and Will Herring try to corral Alabama fullback LeRon McClain.
The two biggest plays on defense came from junior Quentin Groves. Working against Alabama offensive tackle Chris Capps, Groves sacked John Parker Wilson twice to force fumbles. Both times Auburn cashed in on the turnovers with touchdowns. Dede says that was huge because it helped the team get over the hump and is also proved Groves to be a big of a psychic.
"There was a lot of pregame talk and hype, but he told us Friday night ‘that tackle (Chris Capps) can't block me'," Dede says. "He said to count on him and that he was going to come out and have a big game. He just matched up to his words. I had no doubts. He's a big game player. He always shows up big in big games.
"It was big," Dede adds. "Our team hasn't played well as a team all year long. What you need is when you get the turnover you need the offense to go punch it in. That's what they did. Vice versa when the offense loses the ball you need the defense to come back and take it from them. That's what happened."
While Dede, Groves and other veterans such as Will Herring and David Irons were making plays many of Auburn's young defenders were also pulling their weight. Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks had the best game of his young Auburn career with five tackles, one for a six-yard loss, and two fumble recoveries. Linebacker Tray Blackmon also played well as did safety Aairon Savage. All redshirt freshmen, Dede says Savage talked with him Friday night about the defense growing up and it calmed everyone down heading into the game.
"They've helped us out so much and every underclassman plays so hard," Dede says. "The night before the game Savage kind of told the seniors and everybody that early in the season I could tell ya'll weren't that confident in me, but you stuck through it and never lost confidence. He just thanked us for that. Now we have that kind of confidence in him. It helps guys like him and the other young guys step up and make plays."
In the end it wasn't a perfect performance, but the Tigers did enough to win in all phases of the game. Unlike much of the season when only one or two areas showed up and performed in games, Dede says it was nice to have an all-around team win and it came at just the right time.
"We played well," Dede says. "At times we weren't as hot but we punted and came out and played good defense. On offense at times they were a little slow. The good part is when we needed it we got it done."
Now with 10 victories to go with two losses, Dede and the Tigers can enjoy their Thanksgiving holiday break and on Dec. 14th they will hit the field again to start preparations for whatever bowl game they are invited to where they will spend the next holiday.