Byrum Kicking His Way Into Auburn History

Auburn kicker Wes Byrum has been named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for his 30-yarder and 43-yard game winning field goal in Auburn's 20-17 victory over Florida.

Auburn, Ala.--Wes Byrum was a relatively unknown name after his junior year at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale. At the time he might have been one of the better prep kickers in the country, but he was sitting behind senior Brett Swenson, who signed with Michigan State and was a freshman All-American kicker for the Spartans in 2006.

Prior to Byrum's senior year he had a good showing at kicking specialist Mike McCabe's summer camps and also did well at a camp on the University of Florida campus despite having six stitches across the inside of his kicking foot.

"I won all of the competitions at McCabe's camps," Byrum explains. "At the Florida camp, I don't know if it was recorded down but I did pretty well."

Bryum went to Gainesville with his high school kicking coach, Tim Conrad, another nationally known special teams doctor. Conrad, whose last 10 kickers/punters at St. Thomas Aquinas High School have signed Division I scholarships, was also instrumental in John Vaughn's turn-around performance as a senior season after a roller-coaster junior campaign.

"I went there (to Florida) and we talked with them a little bit," Byrum says. "We were trying to get them to offer and they just said they weren't going to offer a kicker that year. It's funny that Coach Conrad made a joke to them one day at the field saying, ‘This kid is going to kick a game-winner against you one day.'"

It wasn't long into Byrum's senior year that Auburn coach Eddie Gran, whose recruiting area is south Florida, extended a scholarship offer to the kicker despite limited contact.

"A little bit disappointing," he says of not getting a Gator offer, "because before that I wasn't talking to Auburn or anything like that. You go to an in-state school and you do well you expect to get some attention from them and I didn't get much.

"Auburn came in, offered, then talked," Byrum adds. "There wasn't much talk with them. They let me know that they were serious about what they were saying rather than just talking and not coming through."

Byrum accepted Gran's offer at Auburn and won the starting job in two-a-days. Heading into his first collegiate road game, Byrum had made 6-8 field goals with a long of 49. His only misses were from 47 and 48, even though he was swinging with a swollen kicking foot suffered on the first play of the season.

Coming back from a 17-3 deficit to start the fourth quarter, Florida had tied the game at 17-17 midway through the final period. However, Auburn got the ball back with 3:38 to play and Tommy Tuberville decided to play for the field goal.

Suddenly Conrad's prophecy had a chance to become a reality.

"People on the sidelines were yelling and screaming all types of things at me," Byrum jokes. "I was getting everything. Guys were screaming all type of things and the girls were saying whatever they could think of to anybody who walked by. I just didn't look anybody of them."

Ben Tate carried the ball down to the Florida 26-yard line and Auburn called a timeout with three seconds remaining. It was time for the kicker to do what he does, except Meyer threw the 18-year old another curve ball. Robert Shiver, Matthew Motley and Byrum successfully executed the snap, the spot and the kick, but the Gator coach had called timeout just before the play. The kick was good but it didn't matter.

"I was a little bit more comfortable because I had hit the first one," Byrum explains, "so when it was time to hit the second one I just went back and did the same thing. It was like an in-game warm-up almost. The rush was full, they all came so it was a good warm-up for the one that counted."

He had overcome the jitters, but had to do it once more.

"Before every kick that is kind of big," Byrum says, "Tommy Trott comes up to me as we're on the field and says, ‘Don't mess this up,' then turns around and goes back to the line. He came up to me and looked at me and he goes, ‘All right Wes. I'm sorry but I've got to do this. Don't mess this up!' and he turned around and walked to the line. It's lightening on the field. It just lightens things up a little bit and lets me know that they're all behind me on the line."

Byrum again made good, but this time the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium clock had hit 0:00. Auburn 20, Florida 17.

Byrum ran off to the other end of the field, he says to avoid being the bottom man of a pile-up, but he also snuck in a Gator Chomp in the direction of the Florida bench.

Though just a freshman, he'll long be remembered in the hearts of Auburn fans for his kick to beat the Gators and end their 18-game home winning streak. The SEC office announced Byrum as the Special Teams Player of the Week as he was 2-2 on field goals, excluding the one that didn't count.

Since the game ended Byrum says he's been getting a lot of support and congratulations from Auburn fans and even from some of his high school friends now at UF.

"I had about 15 friends standing outside (the stadium) waiting for me," Byrum says. "They all congratulated me. They were like, ‘I hate you but I love you. We're okay with it because it was you.'

"There was about 30 minutes where I couldn't touch my phone," he adds. "I was just receiving messages and messages. I just put it down for a little while. I haven't even looked at the voicemails. I went through the text messages, but the voicemails I'll save for another day.

"I've got free unlimited text messaging, so my mom is kind of happy about that."

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