AUBURN - They came because they once wore the jersey, because Auburn is part of who they are. Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Mac Crawford, once successful on the field and now successful in life, came when their school called.
Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy as a running back in 1985, came from Chicago, where he devotes much of his time to charitable causes.
Sullivan, who won the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback in 1971, came from Birmingham, where coaches his own football team at Samford University.
Crawford, who lettered as a fullback in 1968 and 1969 and became an immensely successful businessman, came from Nashville.
They came to help athletics director Jay Jacob, who once blocked for Jackson as an offensive tackle, choose Auburn's 26th head football coach.
"When it's time to go back home and help family out, you stop what you are doing and go back home and help family out," Jackson said. "I didn't think twice about it."
Tuesday night, at the Auburn Football Complex, they were there when Gus Malzahn, the man they chose, was introduced.
Crawford said that they were in full agreement that Malzahn, the head coach at Arkansas State and Auburn's offensive coordinator from 2009-2011, was the right man for the job.
"He's got a turnaround situation ahead of him," Crawford said. "When you look at just how he conducts himself, he exceeded my expectations. He came in with a plan. He came in with a purpose. He convinced us that he had the right character, the right integrity and the right care and concern for these young men. He's been doing that throughout his career.
"We looked at everything and said: 'This is the right guy. This is the guy who can fix our program and make in work in the long-term.'"
For Jacobs, it was a rewarding and even educational experience.
"It was an interesting, learning, fun, intense process," Jacobs said. "It was very serious work, and we were intently focused on doing what is best for Auburn. We had some interesting conversations, but we all knew when it all broke down that Gus was the best guy for the job. He was head and shoulders above everybody else.
"I've always had respect for Pat and Bo and Mac. Going through this process, I have the utmost respect for those three men. They live the Auburn Creed every day. When you get in intense situations like this where a lot of people are pulling you in a lot of different directions and you stay as steady as they stayed and helped me stay, it was a great blessing."
Jackson watched in dismay as the 2012 Tigers staggered to a 3-9 record.
"It's like seeing your kids beat up," Jackson said, "and you want to go out there and help them but you can't."
He said he is confident Malzahn is the man to lead the Tigers back from the abyss and back to their accustomed place in college football.
"We are looking forward to tomorrow," Jackson said. "What happened yesterday is water down the creek. You can't do anything about it. We are looking forward to Coach Malzahn coming in here, turning thing around, putting his foot down and making things happen."
Sullivan spoke of Shug Jordan, his coach, and his 7 D's of success. Malzahn, he said, exemplified the characteristics of which Jordan spoke.
"Let's all get behind Auburn’s new head coach football coach," Sullivan said. "Welcome home, Gus."
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