AUBURN — Jeremiah Dinson kept a quiet smile.
The fans had already filed out of the bleachers above, trumpeting the party on up to Toomer’s Corner. This was last Saturday night, after Dinson had walked off Pat Dye Field for the final time as a player, and had changed out of his uniform. Silence was starting to fall over the magic night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Dinson, like all his fellow seniors on the Auburn football team, was seeing his last home game as a Tiger come to an end.
But that moment — and that feeling — would last forever.
And no one can ever take it away.
So he smiled.
“This is the one I wanted,” Dinson said.
Auburn’s thrilling 48-45 win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl last Saturday wasn’t just a national statement that sent shockwaves across the college football world, or a big bang that could blast the returning Tigers into 2020 with momentum, but for 25 seniors on the Tigers’ roster, it was also a realization of so many of the things the group had worked so hard for.
“It means a lot to me, man,” Dinson said. “I could come back 20 years from now and I could tell whoever playing out there that I beat Alabama twice since I’ve been here.
“Like I said, I’ve been waiting on this one for a long, long time. I’m just blessed. I’m just blessed to be in this position. I’m just happy for our team to get this win.”
Auburn went through ups and downs all season as warriors facing college football’s toughest schedule, beaten down by heartbreak at Florida and LSU and in a gut-wrenching rivalry loss to Georgia just two weeks before that Iron Bowl.
But the team never quit, and neither did those seniors, and on one special night celebrated with fans storming the field, the team showed what it knew was capable of doing and made memories to last a lifetime.
“It was one I will never forget,” defensive lineman Derrick Brown said.
It’s what Brown came back for. Brown and a group of other seniors turned down early entry into their pro football careers last winter for one more ride on the Plains.
Finally, the team put it all together. For Brown, that’s the kind of night that makes it all worth it.
“Being able to make a lot of plays in the Iron Bowl and have a special time — man, it’s crazy,” Brown said. “I’ve been here four years. It didn’t really feel like it until the clock hit all zeroes tonight.
“Just all smiles, man.”
Auburn turns the page soon to one last go-around with those seniors. Its bowl destination will be determined on Sunday.
After that, the team will turn the page to 2020 and those seniors will move on to life without Auburn football.
But no matter where they go, this win’s coming with them.
“I mean, you couldn’t write it up any better, man,” senior wide receiver Sal Cannella said. “Just, the whole year’s been a grind. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs as a team. I mean, and this is one that really matters. We knew that and we knew, just to have a good feeling about the year, we had to win this one.
“You couldn’t write it up any better, man. Unbelievable game. Last game in Jordan-Hare, fans rushing the stadium, beating Alabama — it’s just unbelievable.”