Marshall: Remembering Tucker Frederickson

Columnist Phillip Marshall looks back at Auburn great Tucker Frederickson.

Tucker Frederickson didn't know what to say. He'd arrived at Sewell Hall from the Montgomery airport for his recruiting visit in early 1961 and opened what he thought was his suitcase. His face turned red as he saw the contents. There was nothing inside but three bottles of Jack Daniels whiskey, which rolled out onto the carpet.

Quarterback Bobby Hunt looked on with amusement, whistled, and turned to one of the coaches. "Now this," Hunt said, "is the kind of guy we've been needing to recruit all along."

Frederickson, a highly sought running back from Hollywood, Fla., had picked up the wrong bag at the airport, one that looked identical to his. It was quite a start to his Auburn football career.

"I figured they'd tell me to go home right then," Frederickson says, laughing.

There was no chance of that. Auburn coaches had already seen enough of Frederickson to know he was no ordinary recruit, no ordinary football player. He would become a player so dominant on both sides of the ball that he is still considered by many the greatest athlete ever to play for Auburn, superior even to Bo Jackson. When Auburn fans voted on the Team of the Century in 1992, Frederickson was the leading vote-getter.

Frederickson was a man before his time. He combined size, speed, power and finesse. In 1963 and 1964, he was the best running back, the best blocking back and the best defensive back in the Southeastern Conference. He helped lead Auburn to the Orange Bowl in 1963 and led the nation's best defense in 1964.

Scores of colleges courted Frederickson. Long before recruiting rankings, he was known nationwide as one of the nation's top high school players. Florida seemed a natural destination, but he wanted to be a veterinarian like his father and his uncle. Florida didn't have a vet school.

"It was an accomplishment for me to get a scholarship and not have my dad pay for my college education," Frederickson says. "I could have gone a lot of places, but I had never been out of the South and I wanted to play in the South."

Once he'd visited Auburn, his mind was made up. Frederickson would be a Tiger. It was, he says, the right decision at the right time.

"I was a kid that went up there scared to death," says Frederickson, now in the securities business in North Palm Beach, Fla. "Looking back, Coach Jordan couldn't have been nicer or more of a gentleman than he was. The program was tough, very tough. It was what it needed to be in terms of being able to compete. College football is tougher than the pros. Once you get to the pros, guys know how to play and they are adults with families. It's a business. College football was a tough way. I'm glad I went through it at Auburn."

Though he could afford to send his son to any school in the world, Frederickson wanted him to share the experience of college football. J.E. Frederickson became a wide receiver at Kent State University.

Frederickson was a consensus All-American at safety in 1964 and won the Jacobs Trophy as the South's best blocker. He is a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

In 1962 and 1963, Frederickson played halfback on offense and in the secondary on defense. His blocking helped pave the way for Jimmy Sidle to become the first quarterback ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards as the Tigers went 9-1 in 1963.

"We had a team that wasn't supposed to be as good as we were," Frederickson says. "We should have been undefeated. Jimmy Sidle was a great athlete. We had a bunch of kids that played together and liked each other. If Jimmy hadn't got hurt his senior year, we would have had a hell of a team again."

Frederickson moved to fullback late in his senior year. In those days, the fullback often got as many or more carries than the tailback.

"It was a better position for me," Frederickson says. "I had some success there. Playing offense was more fun that it had been, but we weren't very creative and didn't move the ball very well."

Creative or not, Frederickson was the best running in the SEC. His blocking was legendary. On defense, Frederickson was the most dominant defensive back in the college game, one who could outrun most receivers and deliver punishing blows to ballcarriers. The New York Giants saw it all and made him the first player picked in the NFL draft.

Frederickson spent seven years in the NFL before his career was cut short by knee surgery. The NFL experience, he says, was another turning point in his life.

"Playing in the NFL, being in New York, getting paid, being single, it was fantastic," Frederickson says. "I owe my success to Auburn. We didn't make a lot of money back then, and I stayed in New York in the offseason and met a lot of people. Sundays at Yankee Stadium were wonderful."

In 1986, when Frederickson moved back to Florida and opened his business, his wife died after a two-year battle with brain cancer. He married former professional golfer Gardner Dickinson's daughter three years later. They own a home on the golf course at Seminole, one of the more exclusive clubs in the country. He counts golfing greats Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus among his close friends.

It all started, Frederickson says, with the opportunity to play in New York City.

"I got into Wall Street for 15 years and met a long of people that way," Frederickson says. "When I got here, I was able to continue those contacts. I would never have met Jack and Greg and people like that. Pro football and football in general opened all those doors.

"None of it would have happened had it not been for Auburn."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Phillip's next several columns will feature excerpts from his book, "The Auburn Experience." An oversized coffee table book published in December 2004, the book features more than 300 slick pages of stories and photographs of many of Auburn's greatest traditions, teams, players and coaches in every sport. More copies have become available. Originally selling for $69, it is available now for just $20, plus $5 shipping and handling. For orders of multiple books, there will be just one $5 charge for shipping and handling. Send check or money order made payable to Phillip Marshall to The Auburn Experience, P.O. Box 968, Auburn, AL 36831. Mailing of purchased books will begin the last week of June. Include a note if you wish to have it autographed.


Have questions about "The Auburn Experience?" Contact Phillip at

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