Auburn Football: The 5 Most Underappreciated Players in School History

Ian BergCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2012

Auburn Football: The 5 Most Underappreciated Players in School History

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    The Auburn Tigers have had a wealth of recognizable figures who have played in orange and blue over the years. There are also a host of players who are somewhat forgotten and have easily been underappreciated for their time on the Plains.

    The Tigers have seen a host of All-Americans and award-winners in their history, but there were also a lot of guys who were in the background helping push the Tigers toward success. Some players have simply been lost with time and long forgotten for a number of reasons.

    Whatever the reason, here are five Tigers who are underappreciated for their time on the Plains.

Bill Newton: LB, 1970-73

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    Bill Newton was a linebacker for the Tigers in the early 1970s who saw his biggest impact come in 1972.

    Auburn was facing a favored Alabama team in the Iron Bowl and was down, 16-10.

    Newton busted through the punt formation of the Crimson Tide on two occasions, blocking two punts that were picked up by David Langner and returned for touchdowns. However, more impressive for the Auburn walk-on linebacker were his 23 tackles on the day.

    Newton will forever be etched in Auburn lore as the punt-blocker in the famous "Punt, Bama, Punt" game, but very few remember his name like they do Langner's despite his impressive performance. Newton's performances throughout his career—as well as in that one game—make him one of the most underappreciated players in Auburn history.

    The Newton family continues its Auburn connection as Sarah Newton—Bill's wife—is the District 7 representative for the Auburn Board of Trustees.

Freddie Smith: LB, 1976-79

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    Freddie Smith is one of the least talked-about players in Auburn history. It is amazing that he remains virtually forgotten since he still holds the all-time tackles record at Auburn.

    In his time on the Plains, Smith totaled 528 tackles, averaging nearly 13 tackles a game throughout his career. Those are stunning numbers for any player.

    Smith was an electric player, but he played during an otherwise mediocre time for Auburn football. The fact that he played in such a forgettable time for the Tigers may have something to do with his virtual disappearance in Auburn football conversations. 

Brandon Johnson: FB, 1999-2003

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    Brandon Johnson was the lead blocker for one of the best running back groups in Auburn history. Johnson helped pave the way for Ronnie Brown, Tre Smith, Brandon Jacobs and Carnell Williams during the 2003 season when the Tigers had the "Four Horsemen" backfield.

    Johnson is a name that is hardly ever mentioned and will likely be a great Aflac trivia question at some point in the near future. Johnson was a bull who destroyed the opponent, opening lanes the size of Suburban's in the early 2000s.

Tre Smith: RB, 2002-06

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    Tre Smith is likely to be remembered by virtually every Auburn fan, but he still lands on the underappreciated list. Smith was a guy who seemed to never graduate, but in his time with Auburn, he made some pretty substantial impacts that shouldn't be forgotten anytime soon by the Auburn family.

    Smith's largest contribution came as a freshman in 2002. When the Tigers had no options remaining at tailback heading into the Iron Bowl, Smith came to the rescue—all 5"9" and 190 pounds of him. He rushed for 126 yards in the game, helping the underdog Tigers defeat the Tide.

    For Smith's last legendary feat, he returned a blocked punt for a touchdown against the No. 2 Florida Gators in 2006, also garnering "Pontiac Game-Changing Performance" honors. No matter the issues he had producing consistent results on the field in his career, Smith left a lasting impression on Auburn history, but will always remain as an underappreciated Tiger for his efforts.

Brandon Cox: QB, 2005-07

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    Brandon Cox was an on-field warrior for the Tigers for a number of reasons. Cox faced a ton of adversity battling health issues his entire career. He was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis when he was 15, and the disease causes blurred vision and severe muscle weakness.

    On top of battling the constant body trauma that came with football and the flares that came from the disease, Cox faced a wealth of detractors. By the time he was a senior, he was benched for then-true freshman Kodi Burns for one game.

    Cox had a lot of ups and downs in his career, but he finished as a member of the winningest senior class in Auburn history. He finished at the 29-9 mark as a starter, making him one of the most successful Auburn quarterbacks in history.