By Derek Belt
Mobile Press-Register
Sept. 9, 2006

AUBURN, ALA. — This is the story of a Washington Husky all alone in the Heart of Dixie. A tale of two heated rivals sharing Jell-O shots in a foreign land.

I was fortunate enough to attend four Auburn games this year, including the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa. Each game was unique in its own crazy way, but one stands out as a game I will never, ever forget.

Auburn-Washington State. Opening day.

This wasn’t much of a contest for most Tiger fans, as Auburn stomped the Cougars 40-14 on ESPN2. For many in attendance, it was merely the beginning of another successful season.

For me, it was one of the best games I’ve ever been to. I’d stack it right up there with Saints-Falcons last year on Monday Night Football and the 2001 Rose Bowl, in which Washington engulfed Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers, 34-24.

What made it so great, you ask?

Consider this: You, an Auburn fan from the day you were born, take a job in Des Moines, Iowa, and move far away from home. Because of this, you miss every Auburn game for two years.

Then, one day, vaunted Alabama comes to town to play the Iowa Hawkeyes and you jump at the chance to drive to Iowa City, dust off your blue and orange Auburn garb and root 110 percent against the Tide.

Well, that’s exactly what the Auburn-Washington State game was for me. Washington State is my Alabama. And, to be fair, it’s my Auburn. The Cougars are the in-state rivals of my Washington Huskies, and I don’t like them very much at all. ‘Nuff said.

Here I was, all by myself and with no real chance of cheering on my beloved Huskies when in struts WSU. Of course I was going to go. And I was going to boo the Cougs all the way.

So I journeyed to Auburn on that sunny September Saturday, dressed entirely in UW purple and determined to give every Cougar a taste of my own Southern hospitality. Needless to say, nobody was happy to see me. Jaws hit the floor. Middle fingers hit the air. And the smile never left my face.

I was totally in my element. The Cougars were not. What a shock it must have been to travel all the way across the country and find a purple-clad Husky fan strolling the grounds and shouting “Go Dawgs!” at the top of his lungs.

I met two other Husky fans that day. I also had a 60-year old grandpa throw a beer can at me, but Mr. Burns barely made it halfway to home with his toss. I met plenty of Cougs, young and old, and I have to admit they were pretty good sports about the whole thing. None of them really wanted me there, but at least they respected the level of dedication I was showing my team. One of them even told me, “Man, that’s something I would do.” Ah, the love. And the hate.

They offered me Jell-O shots. We took some pictures. And then the game started and I cheered for Auburn all the way. Just before kickoff, one WSU student asked if I was going to root for his team. I didn’t answer right back.

“Come on, dude. Pac-10 pride,” he crooned, to which I shook my head in disbelief and said, “No such thing. This is all about recruiting.”

Best game ever. And now there’s a story to go with it.