AUBURN – Kaleb Kim remembers the rush of running out onto an NFL field.
He remembers the bright lights, shimmering over the team as it emerged from the tunnel, and that feeling knowing that, high above in the glistening stadium, cameras were rolling .
He might also remember the comfort from when the senior center leaned down for the game’s first snap, and found familiar leather on that pigskin below.
It’s only football.
Auburn opens the season on the big stage in a showcase showdown with Oregon this Saturday, but to Kim and his teammates, those bright lights and big moments are nothing new — and Auburn will have experience to lean on when the Tigers take the field in front of a national audience for the weekend’s marquee matchup.
Plenty of fanfare will circle No. 16 Auburn and No. 11 Oregon before their game in the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, but by kickoff Saturday night, Kim says the game will be the same game he and his teammates have played all their lives.
“It’s kind of a different atmosphere going to a neutral site and being in a dome like that — but at the end of the day, it’s all the same assignments and the same things are expected of us,” Kim said, as the Tigers started their preparation for Oregon last week. “So it’s all about just going out there and executing. So that’s pretty much it.”
Kim is among plenty of Auburn returners back who were thrust into a similar environment just one year ago. Auburn opened the 2018 season with a top-10, non-conference showdown against Washington in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Auburn won 21-16.
“I’m not really about that NFL stadium stuff, because I played in Atlanta,” Auburn wide receiver Eli Stove said, echoing Kim’s same thoughts. “I mean, it’s a big atmosphere. It is what it is.
“I’ll just play my game.”
The game will be broadcast on ABC, and ESPN’s popular morning show College GameDay will broadcast from Fort Worth on Saturday morning near the stadium in Arlington. That’s caught the attention of at least a couple of wide-eyed youngsters in freshman quarterback Bo Nix and sophomore receiver Seth Williams, who’ve mentioned GameDay will be there, but in the same breath both said they’re ready for it.
“When we played Washington it was a big-stage game and everybody was watching,” Williams said. “Coming into this, it’s going to be on College Gameday and it’s another big-stage game, so I think I’m ready to go through it again. I’m ready for it.”
Before last year’s kickoff showcase, Auburn played in another season-opening, neutral-site showdown in 2015 against Louisville in Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. Auburn also played Clemson there in a game to start the 2012 season.
“I guess it’s as good as you can write up, but College GameDay for a freshman walking in, it’s your first game — some people view that as tough, but I kind of see it as fun just because it’s what you prepare for,” Nix said. “I mean, why else would you play if you can’t play at the highest atmosphere, environment and all that stuff?
“It will be fun, and we’ll be ready to go.”