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'What it's all about ...'

AUBURN – On Sunday night, the players on the 2010 Auburn football team did what every college football player dreams of doing. They received their national championship rings.

Bart Eddins shows off his national championship ring/Phillip Marshall photo

Because the last of the rings didn’t arrive until Friday, a team meeting was hastily called for Sunday night. And the 2010 national champions received three rings – one for the SEC championship, one for winning the BCS game and the big one for winning the national championship.

“You do all that hard work with your teammates,” wide receiver Kodi Burns told “Getting a ring is what it’s all about.”

Head coach Gene Chizik talked about the pride he felt for his players and his coaches and what they had accomplished. They heard Karibe Dede, a linebacker on the unbeaten and uncrowned 2004 team and from athletic director Jay Jacobs, on the 1983 team that had a national championship snatched away. Senior executive athletic director Tim Jackson brought rings from the other teams that came so close and talked about what the accomplishments of the 2010 team meant to all those who came before them.

“It was an awesome thing,” offensive guard Bart Eddins said. “Coach Chizik handed them out and said ‘I want everybody to open them at once.’ Guys were like kids at Christmas. They wanted to open their presents, but they had to wait.”

When the opened them, the cheer could be heard in the lobby of the athletics complex.

For Burns, it was another remarkable night in a remarkable month. When the 2010 team visited the White House, he was selected to present President Obama with an Auburn helmet and jersey.

“The last two weeks have been a real blessing,” Burns said. “I thank God for every moment.”

Safety Zac Etheridge’s football career was widely assumed to be over after he suffered a horrific neck injury against Ole Miss on Oct. 31, 2009. But he came back, started all 14 games and was a mainstay on Auburn’s national championship defense.

“I’m just blessed,” Etheridge said. “Not a lot of guys get that opportunity to come back and do this and just be a part of it. To get out there and fight with my teammates was an honor and a blessing.”

For those who return, there was inspiration to do it again.

“It means everything,” sophomore defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker said. “I’m just blessed. Speechless. The talk that we had before I came all makes sense now. We’ll go back to work tomorrow and trying to do it again.”

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