Cadillac Williams, Auburn football ready to 'go crazy' against Alabama in the Iron Bowl
AUBURN — Long before he was the interim head coach for Auburn football, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams was a 21-year-old running back lined up for the first play from scrimmage in the 2003 Iron Bowl.
It was a draw play. Williams took the handoff and ran upfield before putting his foot in the ground and bouncing the run outside. The field opened up, the crowd rose to a crescendo and Williams raced down the sideline to score the game's first points, helping Auburn defeat Alabama, 28-23. All the while, Rod Bramblett was making the call from the booth: "Go crazy, Cadillac! Go Crazy!"
It's one of the most iconic plays in the rivalry's history — on the Auburn side, that is — and one of the most well-known calls Bramblett made in his time as the voice of the Tigers.
Now, nearly 20 years later, Williams leads Auburn (5-6, 2-5 SEC) into the Iron Bowl as a coach, and odes to Bramblett's call have been sprinkled around the program since Williams was given the interim tag. The Auburn football Twitter account made a post in the days leading up to the Texas A&M game that featured Williams wearing a shirt with the iconic phrase on it. And just moments before kickoff against the Aggies on Nov. 12, Williams appeared on the video board and instructed the sold-out crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium to "go crazy."
The stakes in this year's edition of the Iron Bowl are relatively low. Alabama (9-2, 5-2) won't be playing for an SEC championship, and barring something unforeseen, it won't be making the College Football Playoff, either. Meanwhile, Auburn is fighting to just get back to bowl eligibility.
"There's no magical speech that I can give these (players) or coaches. It's the Iron Bowl," Williams said Monday. "If they can't get up for this game this week ... then something is wrong. I truly feel like there's a lot of stuff that's understood (and) doesn't need to be said. I'm looking for our guys to fight and come out and compete. We are not backing down at all."
Nothing is official, but Saturday's contest will likely be the last regular-season game where Williams is the coach. Signs point to new athletics director John Cohen hiring a candidate with experience to lead the program into the future, and that's just not something Williams has at this point in his career.
But that's why this year's Iron Bowl means so much. It can be an exclamation point and fairytale ending to Williams' tenure; one that somehow, someway, brought the Tigers back to life over the last month of the season. The program was stagnant when former coach Bryan Harsin was fired on Halloween, but in the three games that have followed, there's been a tangible injection of energy.
"I don't know (who the next coach will be)," Williams said after a win over Western Kentucky last Saturday. "I really don't care. My seat don't dictate my service. I mean, Auburn is special, and those kids are special. A lot of people took a chance on me, poured into my life, and gave me hope when I was hopeless. So again, my seat don't dictate ... how much I serve. I'm going to make it about these players."
That's what it's always been about to Williams — the players. He's said it since he first was given the promotion, and it's now up to those same players to do their best impression of a 21-year-old Williams and 'go crazy' against Alabama on Saturday to give their coach a storybook ending.
"(The 2003 run is) one of my most memorable plays in my football career, something I'll always be proud of," Williams said. "Hopefully, we can have a couple long runs in Bryant-Denny Stadium (on Saturday)."
Richard Silva is the Auburn beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @rich_silva18.