“I really think he loves us:” Tigers make Cadillac proud at Iron Bowl

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — If Saturday’s Iron Bowl loss was the last game Cadillac Williams As coach for his alma mater, the Tigers sent him the way they have played since he took over as an interim: they fought.

Auburn lost its sixth straight game in Tuscaloosa, 49-27, to No. 7 Alabama on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers rushed for the most yards (318) against an all-time Alabama team led by Nick Saban but turned it over twice, losing reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young and a prolific Alabama offense that grabbed a touchdown on seven of 11 Possessions scored, don’t slow down.

But it took a few minutes for Williams to bring himself to talk about anything to do with the game. Sniffling and in tears, the Auburn icon was still devastated by what his players have been up to over the past four weeks.

“Proud of our players, this staff, this support team,” said Williams. “I am so humbled and honored by the way they have responded to all of this. I mean, through this process, they made me a better person, better husband, father, friend – it’s just powerful what you can do whenever you want to make people believe, serve and not each other to annoy. It’s powerful. So that’s what I’m most excited about when I had this opportunity.”

“Pride” was the subject of what may have been Williams’ last post-game message in the dressing room.

“He was just proud of how we ended the season,” defended the defender Jaylin Simpson said. “We didn’t give up. He’s proud of us and how hard we fought.”

Added Senior Linebacker Owen Pappoe said: “He’s so proud of us. He was sad for the seniors that they couldn’t come out with a win. … But the future is bright in Auburn, he has said.”

When asked what he would take most away from his opportunity to oversee his alma mater’s football program — an opportunity he turned into a shot in the arm for an oppressed team and fan base — Williams took a deep breath. He wiped his face and fought back tears again as he explained how difficult this season has been for so many Auburn players — and how they’ve embraced his coaching on and off the field.

“The kids — how they reacted,” Williams said. “If only you all knew a lot of what happened. I don’t blame anyone for being part of this staff. I’m talking about going to class and boys just missing. To see the guys flip it over the four weeks. Guys are in class, treating people with respect, showing up for their strategy (sessions) and hanging out with their tutors. I like to hear the academics come and say, ‘You’re like other kids.’ That was the best part of it all, to be honest – being able to walk in front of these kids and tell them how proud I am of them. That was very big for me.”

The few days will likely produce a new head coach. Though Williams is still on the team as an assistant, he wanted to leave the Tigers with a parting message: Don’t forget the feelings they’ve discovered in themselves over the past four weeks.

“We don’t know the future, but whoever the next coach is, they want us to stick together,” Linebacker said CamRiley said.

As the Tigers left the rain-soaked field, Williams waited by the tunnel and tried to hug every player he could.

“He’ll take care of us,” he runs back Jarquez Hunter said. “I really think he loves us.”

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