In a crimson family, Auburn QB Robby Ashford “loved being different.”

AUBURN, Alabama— Robby Ashford‘s Thanksgiving talks with his family will be like many others in the state this week: at the Iron Bowl.

Only, in Ashford’s case, it’s not just two fans or alumni from Auburn and Alabama. Ashford, who outnumbers Crimson Tide fans in his family, initiated trash-talking with his Damion Squarehis brother-in-law and former All-SEC Alabama defensive tackle and three-time national champion who married his sister Brandi.

“He was gossiping,” Ashford said with a smile on Monday. “But as he should — I mean, he played in Alabama. But it was good to see how much this game brings our family together as well, as it does for a whole lot of families. This game means everything. So it’s cool to know that I’m about to go out and play the Iron Bowl shortly after years of growing up and just watching. It’s just, wow, this is the week. It will be here. So I’m excited.”

The rest of Ashford’s family went to either Alabama or the UAB. So how did Ashford, who will become only the third different Auburn starting quarterback in the Iron Bowl in the last six years, win a Tiger?

“I loved being different. I think that was probably one of the biggest things,” Ashford said. “I didn’t want to be like my whole family. So I would see them all, they were bama. I was young, I was probably about 4, and I was like, ‘Oh, I like Auburn.'”

His older sister, Brandi, worked in Alabama’s human resources department. When Ashford was in first grade, she took him to the 2008 season opener in Atlanta between Alabama and Clemson.

However, Brandi’s efforts were in vain. Then came the Bo Jackson Jersey – complete with helmet, “a whole little set and everything” his grandmother bought him. Already before Cam Newtonwhich Ashford said was the star of his favorite Iron Bowl of 2010, got young quarterbacks across the country imagining scoring touchdowns in a maroon uniform. Robby had bonded with the Tigers.

“From a young age he was like, ‘No mom, I like Auburn,'” Melony Ashford told Auburn Undercover earlier this year. “No matter how hard some of them (his family) tried, no matter if his friends were Alabama (fans), he stayed with Auburn. He was a chestnut boy and now he is a chestnut man.”

A one-time Ole Miss commitment, Ashford, a former four-star Hoover High School recruit in the class of 2020, never materialized signing for Auburn just a year after the five-star QB Bo Nix did.

But after deciding to move this offseason from Oregon, where he hadn’t snapped in two seasons, there was only one place he wanted to be. Ashford said earlier this season that he will never forget it Bryan Harsin for the opportunity to come home to his dream school.

“I knew when I walked into the portal I was like, ‘I have to come to Auburn,'” Ashford said. “I thought, ‘This is where I need to be and this is where I want to be.’ So just Auburn and what it’s done for me now, just for the 10, 11 months that I’ve been here has been just amazing because it’s all I thought about when I was a recruit. Just seeing everything come to fruition is just awesome.

“…In the end, I’d say it probably worked out for the best in my favor.”

Since Cadillac Williams when Auburn’s interim head coach took over, the Tigers’ offensive focus was on the ground game. Ashford has thrown just 54 passes in his last three games — despite rushing for 192 yards in that span, including two touchdowns in the overtime loss at Mississippi State.

If Auburn is to pull off a legendary upset at Bryant-Denny Stadium – where they haven’t won since Newton’s surreal comeback in 2010 – it will likely take some big moments from Ashford to complement consistent ground attack and improved defense.

In his first season as a starter, the redshirt transfer didn’t find it easy to capitalize on consistency as a sophomore as he completed just 49.3 percent of his passes, with six touchdowns to seven interceptions. But Auburn’s staff — regardless of which ones are retained by the next head coach — know that potential Ashford must be a senior quarterback in the SEC.

“Robby is going to be a really, really good football player here,” says Auburn’s co-offensive coordinator want friend said Monday. “I think someone is going to have a really good player in Robby Ashford in the future. There are very few people in this country who are as athletic as he is. If he grows up to be a quarterback, he’ll be a good player.”

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