Even though he initially committed to the University of South Carolina, Auburn football signee Eric Mack kept considering the Tigers and eventually had a change of college destination when he announced he was going to Auburn exactly two weeks before national signing day.
"The Big Cat Weekend was a good idea," Mack tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "It was all about trying to get the recruits around each other so they could talk, hang out and build relationships. The players talked about who would be playing together in college the next year."
Mack, a 6-4, 328-pound offensive guard from Calhoun County High in St. Matthews, S.C., is rated as a four star prospect by Scout.com and played in the Under Armour All-American Game.
"I enjoyed throwing the toilet paper in the tree (rolling Toomer's Corner) and hanging out with other players who were there and getting to know them," he says. "I made some friends that weekend.
Mack says he liked the low key approach that gave him a chance to get to know the Auburn coaches better in a non-pressure situation. "I thought it was a real good idea," he says. "The Auburn coaches thought of doing it and it was something that nobody else had thought of doing."
Commenting on how the Big Cat Weekend played into his recruitment, he says it was a factor because of the relationships he built with guys who are going to be playing with the Tigers in 2010. "It really played a good bit into my decision," he notes.
Mack says he is currently working out getting ready to attend Auburn this summer and notes that he plans to visit campus this spring to see the Tigers practice.
Another Auburn signee, Pelham High linebacker Jake Holland, got a visit from Auburn's coaches on their Tiger Prowl tour of high schools around the state of Alabama last year and he also attended the Big Cat Weekend.
"I knew it was a new thing bringing in so many prospects at the same time for a weekend," he says. "It wasn't like any other visit because they wanted to make it relaxing and for everybody to have a good time so they weren't necessarily surrounding us with football.
"We had a lot of competitions that weren't related to football," he notes. "We competed in games that weren't related to football and that gave us a chance to get to know the other players. I remember we had a pie-eating contest and a watermelon eating contest. They would see which team would win each competition and add the points up. I think our team is the one that won first place. It was a lot of fun."
Jake Holland is shown at an all-star practice.
Holland, an Under Armour All-American, says he believes the coaches are making a wise move to have another Big Cat Weekend this spring. "It worked last year so I don't see why it won't work again," he says.
"It was really a good idea. I don't remember everything we did, but I do remember everybody was hanging out and having a good time and it wasn't stressful like some of the visits are when you are traveling and trying to impress coaches all of the time at different schools.
"Everybody was having a good time at the Big Cat Weekend and the coaches were in the competitions with us," Holland recalls. "It was fun."
Holland says that the much discussed Tiger Prowl last year was a good idea, too. The event with Tigers coaches traveling to high schools around the state in limos drew national attention.The Tigers are expected to do it again starting on April 26th.
The linebacker notes that he is looking forward to getting to Auburn this year. "Right now I am working hard training and getting my body ready," Holland says.
Another Auburn signee who attended the Big Cat Weekend, Shaun Kitchens from Banneker High School, in Atlanta, gives the event and concept a big thumbs up.
Shaun Kitchens was a standout at an Auburn football camp.
"I remember it wasn't about football, it was about kicking back and having a good time and getting to know everybody," he says. "It was a lot of fun."
Kitchens says he enjoyed getting to know the Auburn coaches and other prospects as people. "We got to know the coaches on a different level and they got to know us not just as prospects," he says.
Before Kitchens puts on an Auburn football uniform, he has more high school competition on his agenda.
"We have our Sweet 16 state playoff game on Wednesday night," he says. "We play Miller Grove."
Kitchens, a versatile athlete who can play offense or defense, is expected to line up at receiver for the Tigers. "I think it is a good idea the coaches are doing the Big Cat Weekend again this year," he says.