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Chris Davis' Iron Bowl TD return 'un-be-lieve-able' for former Auburn All-SEC receiver Lawyer Tillman Former Auburn All-SEC wide receiver Lawyer Tillman of Mobile poses for a photograph at Monday night's pairings party for today's GoDaddy Bowl-Reese's Senior Bowl Celebrity Golf Tournament at Magnolia Grove. (Photo by Tommy Hicks)
MOBILE, Alabama - Like thousands of other Auburn fans, former Tigers' All-SEC wide receiver Lawyer Tillman was at his home, watching last year's Iron Bowl game on TV and he found it hard to contain his excitement as the game's final play - Chris Davis' return for a game-winning touchdown of Alabama's missed field goal - unfolded.
"When Davis made the return I was sitting in my den, but toms cheap when he made it to the end zone I think I took off and ran to the barber shop because they said we didn't have a chance,'' Tillman said prior to the GoDaddy Bowl-Reese's Senior Bowl celebrity golf tournament. "... I was sitting here in Mobile when that happened. When you talk about something that was great, my gosh.''
Tillman made an important play or two in the Iron Bowl in his playing career, but he said those plays don't compare to Davis' return last season.
"That play there, it probably won't blank us out, but it's going to be shown a whole lot more (than his plays). A whole lot. Because that was un-be-lieve-able,'' Tillman said, dragging out the word for emphasis. "To watch it all take place, it was amazing. ... When those big guys shifted and they went the way he faked, and then he cut back, then it was just a matter of staying inbounds. ... Once he finally got through I tore up that house. I think I lost my voice.''
The entire 2013 season was one that caught Tillman and many Auburn fans by surprise. And it was a good surprise.
"It was unbelievable,'' he said. "I'm going to be expecting a whole lot this year. To come off winning three games the year before and come back to win it all but fall short toms sale in the national championship. It was an honor. It was a great season.
"No. That was something not expected, but there's going to be a lot of expectations now based on what they did last year. They really didn't lose anybody - they lost a few players but they had the backups to fill in. We're going to be looking for a whole lot more and I'm hoping we can take it all.''
Tillman has a connection to the team beyond his legacy as one of the greatest receivers in the program's history. His son, Lawyer Tillman Jr., is a running back on the Tigers' roster. The elder Tillman caught 93 career passes for the Tigers for 1,808 yards and 14 touchdowns. For his four-year career - 1985-88 - Tillman averaged 19.44 yards per catch. And he had the end around reverse in the 1986 Iron Bowl for a touchdown to beat Alabama, a play that remains a favorite among Auburn fans.
There were other plays too. Including a 4-yard touchdown catch to help the Tigers beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta in 1987 when Auburn scores two touchdowns in the final 22 seconds of the game, the second being an Aundray Bruce interception return for a score on the game's final play.
"They talk about the Alabama games a lot, but we had one game down in Georgia Tech and it was a nail-biter,'' Tillman said. "I caught that winning touchdown in the back of the end zone. A lot of people don't talk about that but that's one that I keep under the hat. That was a huge game. Aundray Bruce came back and sealed it with the interception and taking it back for a touchdown.''
With Gus Malzahn coaching a no-huddle, quick-paced offense, Tillman sometimes finds himself wondering how he might have fit in with such a scheme.
"I think about that a lot, especially when Cam (Newton)was there,'' Tillman said. "If that quarterback was there when I was there, boy, that would have been great. I took it as it was; I had some great quarterbacks in (Pat) Washington (Jeff) Burger and (Reggie) Slack. They utilized me and I'm thankful for that.
"Actually, I like everything about (the college game toms clearance today). It's fast-paced and they utilize their receivers more. Back when I was playing it was more of a wishbone and you eased into the passing game. You used the passing game when you needed it. If I could do it all over again I wouldn't, but just to be a part of that fast-paced offense, I think I would have been a lot better receiver.
"The size of those quarterbacks and being able to see over the line - not taking anything away from the quarterbacks I had; look at my stats, I had great quarterbacks - but utilizing the height those guys have and their arms and running ability, it would have opened up a whole lot more.''
Asked what players he enjoys watching, Tillman offered two names quickly. "Just anybody exciting,'' he said, then noted, "There's so much talent out there now, you can't just pinpoint one. But I still like my Cam and I love watching Johnny Manziel; he just brings excitement to the game. As far as quarterbacks, those two guys have it.''
And receivers? "Myself,'' he said, followed by a big laugh. "There's so many receivers out there right now, it's fun to watch.''
But watching is all the third pick of the 1989 NFL draft's second round by the Cleveland Browns said he is interested in doing these days. "Miss it? No. I don't miss it,'' Tillman said. "If I had it to do all over again I probably would. It was fun while it lasted. I made the best of it and I wish it had lasted a little bit longer but those injuries, they do come and they do shut you down. I thank God I was able to do what I did and that I continue to live a healthy life.''
And that he can continue to follow Auburn football, which he hopes to do more of in the future.
"I don't get back as much cheap toms online as I should,'' he said of Auburn. "I have a son up there and I had two daughters to graduate there. I don't get back as much as I would like because I'm always working, but I'm going to have to settle down and participate more. I miss the guys, I miss the fans. There's a lot of guys that still go back and it's like a football reunion. We see each other and we have fun. That's something I'm going to have to get back into. I need to go back more and enjoy myself.''
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