Carl Stephens was a University of Alabama graduate, but he was an Auburn man and didn't care who knew it.
Through 13 football seasons, Carl was the man beside Coach Shug Jordan on the Auburn Football Review each Sunday. Carl would usually open the show with a comment, and Jordan would start his response with "You are so right, Carl." That phrase became part of the fabric of Auburn football.
Carl also spent 27 seasons as the public address announcer at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He worked Auburn basketball and baseball and was much in demand for postseason events.
Wednesday, Carl died at the age of 77.
I am proud to have called Carl my friend. He was a caring and giving man.
In 2004, I sat in a Montgomery restaurant with Carl doing an interview for a chapter on him in my book that was published later that year. He told me the story of how an Alabama graduate became an Auburn icon.
Carl, who grew up in Gadsden, went to work at WSFA-TV in Montgomery after he got his degree in 1957. For four years, he was "Cartoon Carl," the host of a children's show.
"When people call me 'Cartoon Carl' or say 'You're so right, Carl,'" I know how old they are," Carl said with a laugh.
Leroy Paul, the WSFA sports director at the time, was the first host of the Auburn Football Review. Carl became sports director when Paul left and was in line to take over the show, but duty called. His National Guard unit was activated during the Berlin crisis. Back at work in 1963, Carl became the host and he and Jordan became an inseparable part of Sunday afternoon TV during football season. When Jordan retired in 1975, Carl turned the show over to Phil Snow.
In the days before the widespread televising of college football, the first glimpse most fans got of games was on one-hour Sunday television shows featuring Jordan and Alabama's Bear Bryant. Both shows were done live.
"It was a lot different then," Stephen said. "We had one sponsor - Southern Bell - the entire time. We had for commercials. The game was shot on film, and it would take all night to edit. I'd go home at about 10 in the morning an go back at 3:30. Coach Jordan would get there and we'd kind of go over it."
Somewhere along the way, Carl became as loyal to Auburn as any Auburn graduate.
"Coach Jordan had a lot to do with it," Carl said. "If I asked him a dumb question, he'd never make me feel like I'd asked a dumb question. Around the TV station, he didn't have an entourage. He and Evelyn would come over. He was just generally a gentleman.
"Coach Bryant was always nice to me, too, but there was something truly special about Coach Jordan. I'm about as big an Auburn fan as there is. I've enjoyed all these years. People at Auburn have ben very nice to me"
After Carl retired, Auburn athletics remained a family passion for him, wis wife Mary and their family. Their daughter, Sandra, was an Auburn cheerleader. Their son, Richard, was a member of the marching band.
As the years passed, Carl became a favorite of Auburn fans.
"When I'm going into the stadium, people will stop me just to say hello," Carl said. ""They will introduce me to their children. That means a lot to me."
Carl always had time and a kind word for everyone who came his way. That's the kind of man he was. He'll be missed, but his legacy will live on.