Tiger Defenders Want a Hard Hat Attitude

Tray Blackmon and Chris Evans talk about their hardhats and the Auburn defense's mentality.

Auburn, Ala.—Former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp started the "hardhat" mentality with the defense prior to his first year at Auburn in 2006, but the 2008 defense under Paul Rhoads has taken the hardhats to a new level.

Throughout the course of the year under Muschamp, stickers were placed on a hardhat for the player with the biggest hit during a game. Whoever accounted for the most stickers got to keep the helmet at the end of the season.

"Of course, I took it home both years," Tray Blackmon jokes. "This year we started something new."

All of the veterans on the defense now have a hardhat, and some of the players carry theirs to and from every practice to serve as a reminder. Blackmon wore his along with a big smile after Sunday's practice while meeting with reporters.

Chris Evans had his hardhat dangling from his belt as he left the practice fields.

"It just shows our blue-collar mentality," Evans says. "It's about coming out and going to work every day. Coach (Paul) Rhoads put it best. It's what our defense is–11 guys just going to work every day."

Evans adds that it's not meant for inspiration. It's just a symbol of what they're accomplishing this August, he says. "I just come to work every day. To me, it just symbolizes what we already do."

Blackmon adds, "We come out here and go to work every day and work hard. It means a lot to us wearing our hardhats. Us linebackers today came out with our hardhats on as just something to show that we are here to work. We came out to work."

The hat is like just a typical construction hardhat, but the outer shell is painted like an Auburn football helmet.

"I look alright," Blackmon says of his fashion statement. "I look like I came to work."

Blackmon and Josh Bynes are a pair of hard-hitting middle linebackers.

Tray Blackmon

The newcomers must earn their hats.

"This hardhat means a lot," Blackmon states. "You just can't go out and get one and throw it on and just think that now I have a hardhat. You've got to work hard to get one and you've got to continue hard to keep it because coach will take it. And if coach takes it, that should mean a lot to you to get your hardhat taken. The freshmen are just getting in and they've got to earn theirs and want it enough to keep it."

The defense got the hats prior to the first day of preseason practice, but Blackmon says it's a fad that might catch on this season.

"Usually just a couple of guys like Chris Evans or Sen'Derrick Marks or somebody will tie theirs to the (fence) by the linebackers," Blackmon says. "We just had a meeting today and I really felt like us as a linebacker group, we're trying to lead the defense so we came out with our hardhats on just to symbolize and send a message to the rest of the defense that we're here to work. You might be surprised tomorrow (Monday) if the whole defense comes out with them on."

The Tigers will have another two-a-day on Monday with practices scheduled for 8:15 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

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