A voice lost but never forgotten

Published 4:29 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Touchdown Auburn.” It was a call made famous by the legendary voice of the Auburn Tigers, Jim Fyffe. He found his voice just five years after my graduation from Auburn 1976. His tragic death following a brain aneurysm at the age of 58 left the Auburn Family devastated.  Who could replace the legendary voice of Auburn sports?

The answer was Rod Bramblett, who would become one of the most renowned sportscasters in college sports history.  Rod had already been the voice of Auburn baseball for 11 seasons before he was chosen to replace Fyffe in 2003.   Ten years later, he was honored by Sports Illustrated as the Sports Broadcaster of the Year in 2013, perhaps most notably for his call of the “Kick Six” win over Alabama.

I was at the game when Auburn beat their arch nemesis Alabama in the most unlikely fashion.  With only a controversial second left on the clock Alabama chose to try a long field goal for the win.  The kick came up short and Chris Davis ran his way into the Auburn history books with a 109 yard return.  The only thing more memorable than Davis’ iconic run was Rod’s call as the play unfolded. 

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“They won’t keep them off the field tonight” was part of Rod’s call that night.   He was right.  Mary Lou and I joined our friends and family in the stadium, along with fans we had never known before that night in celebrating one of the top Auburn victories of all time.

For six weeks after that game, I would reach over to the table beside the bed each morning, grab my iPad and listen to Rod’s iconic call once again.  What a great way to start each day.   

I wish that was the end of a good Auburn story.  Unfortunately, Rod and his wife Paula were tragically killed this past weekend when their car was rear ended on the Shug Jordan Parkway.    Rod was only 53 years old.  Paula was 52.  They are survived by a daughter that is a student at Auburn and a son that is in the 10th grade.  Hundreds of thousands of his Auburn Family also mourn his loss.

Over the past couple of years Mary Lou and I had the opportunity to get to know Rod and his wife.  We spent time with them in Kansas City and Minneapolis during Auburn’s trip to the Final Four.  We would see Rod at all sorts of Auburn events and even at Chappy’s Deli where we both would enjoy a good breakfast.

Rod was a graduate of Auburn, loved it like so many of us do and was the Voice of the Auburn Tigers for almost a generation.   Through the power of college athletics and radio, Rod’s voice became synonymous with Auburn.  He was a professional, yet a true fan of Auburn at the same time.

During one conversation with Rod we discussed his children.  He obviously loved them both and was very proud of them.  I can only hope that this knowledge will give them both comfort in the difficult days ahead.

It is one thing to mourn the loss of Rod Bramblett, the Voice of the Auburn Tigers.  By now, Auburn fans around the world have read far more eloquent words than mine written by people who knew Rod and Paula better than I did.   But for the readers that aren’t Auburn fans and did not know the Brambletts I wanted to eulogize a truly good man.

Rod always had a smile on his face.  He was never too busy to talk with you and made you feel like he had all the time in the world to discuss whatever was on your mind.  He loved his community and his job.  He was always prepared and almost never at a loss for words.  Rod loved his wife and his children and was justifiably proud of them. 

Rod Bramblett loved Auburn, the city and the university, and they loved him back.  He replaced a legend, Jim Fyffe, and in doing so became a legend himself.   He was the epitome of an Auburn Man.  Rod’s voice has been silenced, but his legacy will live on forever.