He then found out that his Tigers secured the best bowl bid possible with their 8-4 record by receiving an invitation to play the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on New Year's Day.
Mark Brown knows how to fill a hole in the middle of the action.
He also found out that after leading his Tigers in tackles through 12 games, coaches around the Southeastern Conference honored him by making him a second team All-SEC selection.
One of the hardest working football players during Coach Tommy Tuberville's tenure on the Plains, Brown blossomed as a linebacker his final two seasons. However, just how good the former Germantown, Tenn., High player could be as a collegian wasn't established until his senior season when he was not hampered by major injuries that bothered him in 2001. The result was 91 total tackles, including nine for losses and 2 1/2 quarterback sacks.
Tommy Tuberville says he has enjoyed watching Brown develop from a little-used reserve into a key player on the 2002 team. Auburn's head football coach says he is happy Brown will join center Nowland, a first team All-SEC pick, and punter/kicker Duval, who earned All-SEC and All-America honors as a junior, in postseason play.
"All three of these guys earned the right to go to the bowl game in Orlando with their team and the all-star game," says Tuberville. "It is good that they will get the recognition. They have had a lot of pro scouts here looking at them. They will get another opportunity to show what they can do in the Senior Bowl."
The Tigers will take on a 9-3 Penn State team in Orlando on New Year's Day in the final college game for Brown and his two teammates. Seventeen days later they will play at the Senior Bowl in Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile.
"I am happy for them because they are good people and good football players," Tuberville says. "They are players with character who will do well on the next level. These guys are all hard workers. They have been the backbone of what we have done here the past four years. They have been on three SEC Western Division championship teams and won a lot of games. They have kept this program afloat while we were dealing with playing with a lot of young players. The last couple of years they have been leaders of this team."
Brown, who can often be found at the football complex doing extra workouts with other teammates or by himself, won praise from Tuberville and his position coach, Joe Whitt, for his toughness in anchoring the middle of the Tiger defense. Whitt says that Brown's play in the second half of the 2003 season has been some of the most impressive linebacker work he has seen at Auburn in recent seasons.
Brown says he hopes his strong senior season and a good showing in Mobile will give him a chance to move on to the NFL. "I have been working hard since I got here and I am going to try to stay level-headed and keep focused," says Brown, who says playing in the Senior Bowl has been a goal of his for many years. Playing pro football has also been a long-time goal for the 6-2, 243-pounder says he just wants to get a shot.
He can certainly help himself with a strong showing in Mobile. "There will be a lot of pro coaches and scouts there," he says. "I just have to have a good week--relax and go out there and do what I know I am capable of doing."
Before that game, there is some unfinished business at Auburn and in Orlando, Fla. Brown and the Tigers are currently busy with final exams. Brown says after this semester he will be 10 hours short of graduation and he plans to pick up his degree in the summer of 2003.
He was hoping to go out as an SEC champion this season, but the Tigers just missed the opportunity to play for the title with heartbreaking losses to Florida and Georgia. "There were some disappointments because we could have had a better season, but I was pretty happy with the way things turned out," Brown says. "We worked hard and we have a chance to finish up in a nice bowl game."
Commenting on the defense, he says, "We got better and better as the year went along. It might have took us too long to get as good as we needed to be, but we did beat Alabama to end the season and I think that will give us momentum going into the bowl game. I think it gives our team momentum going into next year, too. I think they are going to be pretty hard to beat in 2003."
Brown says the Tigers will enjoy their trip to Orlando. "We had a really good time when we went down there two years ago," he says. "It is going to be a challenge playing a team like Penn State with a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back. That is really going to test us."
Tiger Ticket Extra: When asked if he had any concerns that the Tigers might lose any juniors to the NFL draft, Tuberville said, "I think we will be fine. Obviously, there are some guys who would be interested in where they would be in the draft. That will give them an idea of their weaknesses and strengths, what they say about them and what they are going to need to do for next year."