"I am happy but I am sad, too," Hood says. "It is wonderful to finish the season and my career with the win over Penn State. We played a great game against a great team. Just being with a bunch of great guys we have on this team has been special to me. I hate to leave them and I am really going to miss them."
Hood and the Tigers took a 13-9 victory over a favored Penn State team in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. The defense came through for the Tigers, keeping the Nittany Lions out of the end zone. That was against an offense averaging 436.7 yards and 36.4 points per game.
Hood and his teammates limited Penn State quarterback Zack Mills to 67 yards passing. He completed just eight of 24 passes and threw an interception that Hood returned 28 yards after the Tigers had taken the lead on a 17-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Brown with 2:19 to play.
Hood says the Tigers did a good job of disguising their coverage on the interception play. "We tried to confuse him," Hood notes. "He tried to drill the ball in there, but I don't think he ever saw me."
The play just before Hood's interception, the Tigers appeared to have caused and recovered a fumble, however, Penn State got a big break on a very questionable call by the Big East officiating crew. "We were determined that they weren't getting into the end zone so we didn't let that bother us," Hood says.
Hood arrived at Auburn as a specially invited walk-on out of Carver High in Columbus, Ga. He was an option quarterback and a good one, but he was injured and didn't receive the type of recruiting attention a player with excellent speed and natural ability should have gotten. However, Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall, who recruits Columbus for Auburn, saw the potential in Hood as either a defensive back or wide receiver.
Hood is shown with cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley. The senior returned five punts for 39 yards in his finale game.
After arriving on campus in August of 1999, he was one of the more impressive freshmen and he played in all 11 games on special teams and saw some spot duty at cornerback. Before the start of his sophomore season, Hood was on scholarship and became a major contributor to the Auburn defense and as a return man.
Hood says he really enjoyed playing for new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, a coach who says that the senior should get a chance to make an NFL team because of his coverage skills and quickness. Wherever Hood is next fall, he says he plans to keep an eye on his teammates. "I think we got better as the season went along," he says. "Now it is time to pass the torch to the younger guys. Most of the guys are coming back next year and they have a great spirit and a great will to win. That is going to put them on top."