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Unlikely Iron Bowl heroes

When Auburn and Alabama get together to play football, heroes can come from surprising places.

Patrick Nix's touchdown pass to Frank Sanders turned the Tide in 1993.

Frequently, it is the stars who shine the brightest. But not always. Sometimes unlikely heroes emerge in the Iron Bowl for moments that will be remembered forever.

Here are five Auburn players who were unlikely Iron Bowl heroes:

QB MAILON KENT, NOV. 30, 1963

Auburn threw just two passes that day at Birmingham's Legion Field, neither thrown by Jimmy Sidle, the All-America starting quarterback.

Senior Mailon Kent, who had been the starter as a junior, had already hit tight end Bucky Waid with a crucial 13-yarder that set up an Auburn field goal in the first half, the first points the Tigers had scored against Alabama since 1958. In the fourth quarter, still clinging to a 3-0 lead, Auburn faced third-and-goal at the Alabama 8 after Howard Simpson had recovered a fumbled punt. Auburn coach Shug Jordan told Kent to go in and run one of his favorite plays. Kent would have the option of running or throwing to All-America halfback Tucker Frederickson.

He threw, Frederickson caught and Auburn went to break four years of Alabama domination with a 10-8 victory at Legion Field.

LB RONNIE ROSS, NOV. 28, 1970

As Auburn prepared to play Alabama at Legion Field, head coach Shug Jordan had a problem. All his linebackers were hurt. Every one of them. In desperation, Jordan moved team captain Ronnie Ross from tight end to linebacker and James Owens from running back to linebacker. Early in the game, it wasn't working so well.

Alabama led 17-0 and was driving for more when Scott Hunter cut loose a pass. Ross stepped in front and grabbed the only interception of his career. That awoke the Tigers with a roar. Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley led a comeback for the ages as Auburn won 33-28 at Legion Field.

CB TIM DRINKARD, NOV. 27, 1982

Tim Drinkard wasn't the biggest or the fastest cornerback around, but he believed he could play big-time college football. That's why he transferred from Livingston State to Auburn for his final two seasons. And he proved he could do what he set out to do, becoming a starting cornerback.

In 1982, Drinkard's senior season, Alabama was up 7-0 and driving at Legion Field. But Mark Dorminey put a withering hit on Alabama running back Joe Carter, knocking the ball into the air. Drinkard snatched it and ran 62 yards to the Alabama 13. Lionel James scored from the 10 on third down.

Auburn went on to win 23-22, breaking free of nine years of Alabama's domination. Without Drinkard's big play, Bo Jackson might never have had the chance to go over the top for the winning touchdown.

QB PATRICK NIX, NOV. 20, 1993

It was the defining play in the defining game of a remarkable Auburn season. Patrick Nix would become a two-year starter who would win a lot of big games, but he'll be remembered for one pass against Alabama in 1993.

Nix was not expected to play as Auburn tried to beat Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 20, 1993, and finish an 11-0 record in Terry Bowden's first season as head coach. But starter Stan White went down with a knee injury midway through the third quarter, ending his college career. It was fourth-and-15 at the Alabama 35 when Nix was summoned into the game. Alabama led 14-5.

On the sideline, Bowden made a surprising decision, deciding the line of scrimmage was too far away for a field goal try and too close for a punt. In his heart, he didn't expect it to work.

Nix threw for wide receiver Frank Sanders near the goal line. Sanders, coming back for the ball, grabbed it and dived into the end zone. Scott Etheridge's extra point made it 14-12. Auburn wasn't stopping and went on to finish a perfect season with a 22-14 victory.

RB TRE SMITH, NOV. 23, 2002

Auburn appeared to be in a lot of trouble as it went to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium. A heartbreaking 21-17 loss to Georgia the week before had left emotional and physical stars. Tailbacks Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown and fullback Brandon Johnson were out with injuries.

Tre Smith, a true freshman, got the call at tailback. Tight end Cooper Wallace moved to fullback. And Auburn did what almost no one thought it could do.

Smith ran 25 times for 126 yards, 99 in the first half. His 51-yard run set up Auburn's first touchdown and the Tigers dominated the game, winning 17-7.

Another Iron Bowl is set for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

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