Mike Marshall (no relation to Phillip), an Auburn graduate, was a journalist for 28 years and won more than 70 state and national awards. He won the Herby Kirby Award for the state’s top sports story three consecutive years. He also won two first-place awards from the Football Writers Association of America, a first-place award from the Associated Press Association for feature writing and the Associated Press Sweepstakes Award for the top newspaper story of any kind in Alabama. He was the Sportswriter of the Year in Alabama in 1994. He covered Auburn for The Montgomery Advertiser and covered Auburn and football recruiting for The Huntsville Times. He shares his thoughts in a column each Thursday.
Columnist Mike Marshall
Since we’re going to be spending some time together, we ought to get to know each other a little better.
I think I’ve got a good idea about what interests you, considering you’re a member of this website. It’s the same thing that has interested me for many years.
You and I, we’re probably a lot alike. I was raised on Auburn football by my father, a 1955 Auburn graduate.
My father told me that he had a choice before he graduated from high school: He could study engineering at Auburn or Alabama.
He chose Auburn, in part, because everyone spoke to him when they passed him in town or on campus. It was an Auburn tradition for many years.
Funny thing about it, my father did not want me to attend Auburn, mainly because he had bigger dreams for me. But there was never any doubt for me, even with the school in academic and athletic upheaval in 1980.
The hold was just too strong. Show me an Auburn fan who made it through the doldrums of the mid- and late-1970s, and I’ll show you a loyal Auburn fan for eternity.
My enthusiasm for Auburn is the reason I wanted to be a sports writer. My father, an ardent newspaper reader, often threw me the sports page when the newspaper arrived in the afternoons.
One day in the spring of 1971, when I was 9, I read about a sophomore quarterback who was having a sensational spring practice at Auburn. His name was Ralph Brock, and the story hinted that he might contend for playing time in the fall.
I was shocked. I had never heard of Ralph Brock, and I was astonished that he was now challenging Pat Sullivan, the greatest quarterback of all time in the eyes of a 9-year-old boy from Huntsville who had seen only a handful of college games.
Brock, of course, was no threat to Sullivan. I don’t recall him ever playing during the 1971 season. He would later transfer to Jacksonville State, where he was known as Dieter Brock.
But what I do recall is that I wanted to be a sports writer the moment I read about Ralph Brock. I wanted to know about these developments before everyone else, and then I wanted to tell the world about them.
So now, here we are at a point in Auburn history much like the one I found as a freshman in 1980. Auburn is coming off a winless Southeastern Conference football season. There is a new football coach who has instilled hope for the future. The basketball and baseball programs, though, are mediocre or worse.
I haven’t been a full-time sports writer since 1995, though I continued to write about sports now and then. I spent the last 17 years of my newspaper career in a variety of roles, wrapping up a career my father never wanted me to pursue in the first place.
Now, I’m a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, a career he would have approved of. But my father’s fondness of newspapers and his love for Auburn are probably the reasons I’m here with you today, writing this column and telling you a little something about myself.
And there’s Ralph Brock.
Let’s not forget him, either.