On August 18, 1993, Auburn was hit with some of the most severe penalties in the history of the NCAA.
This was a direct result of a former Auburn scholarship football player, Eric Ramsey, secretly taping four years' worth of conversations in which Auburn coaches and supporters provided illegal cash and gifts.
Eric and I played football at Auburn at different times; before this, I had never met or spoken with him. I, like many from the Auburn family, was dead-set in my opinions from the start. Stories and rumors flew around like a mad swarm from a kicked hornets’ nest, including his being prompted by an Alabama supporter.
Those rumors weren't true.
Any lifetime Auburn fan can recall the sinking feeling in their gut when they heard, “Somebody has tapes on us giving money to a player." At once, Eric Ramsey became the most reviled name in Auburn history.
The beloved institution, full of history, pride and passion, the Auburn family all at once was cast into the deepest shadows.
"A player did this? One of our players? Are you kidding me?"
Yes, yes, and unfortunately, no.
Revenge was the most commonly shared thought among us of the testosterone-driven emotions, though I am quite sure many women would have admitted the same. Ironically, it was that same emotion that caused Eric Ramsey to violate one of the most treasured human sentiments, trust.
“Why?” was the first word out of most mouths.
It is a question that remains even to this day.
My emotion-filled conversation with Eric Ramsey covered a roller coaster of a life, in which an exciting successful future turned into despair, nightmares and death threats. It was a war against the soul that infected Eric’s life even today and all those around him. His wounds were, as he admits, self inflicted.
To some he was a hero. Others close to him, that I know, who were there when it all happened, have spoken of pity. To others he will always be a scorned and detestable traitor.
In Eric Ramsey I found a man that has tried, in the best way he could, to move on with his life. I believe what Eric has told me here to be the truth, because most of it isn’t very pretty. He is currently a Christian, an actor, model and screenplay writer residing in the Los Angeles area. Like many in that profession awaiting his big break, his other income is derived from another source, his own security company.
He has had much time to consider and reflect on the series of events that lead up to his taping conversations with coaches and staff of Auburn Athletics and the eventual public disclosure of the same.
To me, and to Eric as he describes in detail the events surrounding these tapes, it doesn’t seem like it happened almost 20 years ago.
As best I could, I tried to put this in chronological order. There will be some emphasis added and side notes as I attempt to the convey the tone and the texture of our discussion. It is my first such interview, so bear with me.
In his own words, raw and uncensored, for the first time: Eric Ramsey’s story.
Max: Hey Eric, how're you doing?
Eric: Doing good man how about you?
Max: I'm great, how’s everything in LA?
Eric: It's all good man...I had to run down to near Riverside earlier, a friend of mine is putting together a movie and we had to do a little dress rehearsal.
Max: That's awesome. Okay, now, I have to tell you something first and I am sure you’ll understand.
Eric: Okay, what’s that?
Max: I am taping this.
He busts out laughing.
Eric: Ah, you’re taping me huh!? [Laughs again] Yeah man, that's fine.
Max: So I have your permission right?
Eric: Yes sir you do.
Max: Now you grew up in Homewood, Alabama, right? And you lived with your grandmother?
Max: How old were you when you went to live with her?
Eric: 12 or 13, I think, in the fourth grade, and then I went back in eighth grade until she passed away in my junior year of high school.
Max: What was her name?
Eric: Clarice Ramsey.
Max: I bet she was a church going’ Grandma wasn't she?
Eric: Oh my gosh, yes. A God fearing church woman...She’d have me up at 5:30 in the morning for a 7:15 service...I never did understand that. But those were her rules in her house, you either abide by it or you went home.
Max: Now you mentioned yesterday that your dad was in jail sometime when you were young?
[We had spoken briefly the day before to arrange this. --MS]
Eric: My father, I call him Daddy, Daddy was a heroin addict. So he was in and out of jobs during my childhood. And, on this particular occasion it was something different. He got involved with a white girl, who he said he thought was of age, and anyway, her parents found out about it and he ended up being charged with statutory rape.
Max: When was this?
Eric: In the early '80s when you were at Auburn.
Max: How about your momma, where was she?
Eric: She lived in Cooper Green projects. I come from a family of nine kids, I got six brothers and two sisters, and I am in the middle, with 8 different fathers.
Max: Wow. So not much stability at home. What was it like growing up in Homewood in the '70s?
Eric: I remember my first visit to Homewood, that’s where my grandmother lived, and I was on the way to school and this kid jumps out and yells, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger. So I beat him up and put him in the trash can.
Max: He deserved it.
Eric: We had several incidents like that. But the kids I grew up around, the white kids, we didn’t feel that, because we had a common bond. We all played football. Younger kids, even us, our age, we didn’t see the racism that went on long ago like my grandmother did.
She cleaned house, that’s what she did, and she worked for these white people for years, I mean for years, and she did everything for them. And when the husband died, before he died, he told her he was going to leave her $50,000. Well, by the time the will was read, the wife had changed all that and she wound up getting nothing.
Max: Well, that’s just stealing, that may not have been racist, and you know white folks steal from white folks, too?
Max: I’m sure, and during those times for sure.
Eric: I mean, you know, it wasn’t that, you get called nigger this and nigger that, I mean it was Alabama, you know, home of the civil rights movement.
Max: Yes I know it is Alabama; we love it, with all its scars.
Eric: That’s right.
Max: Now you went to Homewood High School right?
Eric: That’s right.
Max: Now from what I read, you were big dog on campus right? Most Valuable Player your senior year?
Eric: Yeah well, what happened was, I was kind of little growing up, my friends who were taller than me then are like 5'8" and 5'9" now, and I’m over six feet. They were like superstars growing up. So they were on the varsity and I was still on JV.
Then I grew like 3 or 4 inches and one of them ended up getting hurt, and the coach said, "Well, you have to start tonight." And I said, "What!?" And that night I ended up intercepting a pass, in my first game on varsity, and ran it back like 80 yards. I got knocked out of bounds, I didn’t score, but that was my first start. So that’s kind of got it all started for me.
Max: That was a good start.
Eric: Yeah and then by my junior year, I started getting a lot of letters and things, and it was pretty much already decided, because my coach had already told them I was going to Auburn. And I was recruited by Coach Larry Blakeney.
So by my senior year, I was like, okay, and the only visit I took was to Auburn. I got letters from Florida State, and Tennessee, they sent me like a birthday card and stuff, real nice, the only school I was expecting to get a letter from and didn’t was Alabama. Because, before I went to Auburn, I was a die-hard Alabama fan.
Max: Okay, so you graduated high school in '86 and in '87 you were red-shirted at Auburn, right?
Eric: Right. I was the one of the only red-shirts that traveled with the team, I never did understand that, but I said, okay!
Max: What was college football like in reality versus what you thought it would be?
Eric: Well, now you have to remember now, I wasn’t a typical college student, because, I got married after my first year being there. That was a dynamic change, right?
Max: Well yeah! … That was Twilitta, right?
Eric: And then a couple months after that, she got pregnant. Less than a year later I have a son. So, totally different than what I expected. I expected to go to college, be a single guy, have a wonderful time, and, here I was, I wasn’t thinking anything about getting married, much less a family, and less than a year I got a wife and a child.
Max: Wow, what a change.
Eric: Yeah, and I know we’re going to be talking more about this, but what I regret the most out of all this, is my son, I miss him so much, I don’t have a relationship with him and I miss him so much. His mom, my ex, has completely cut me off from him. I am happily divorced from her but I am miserable I don’t have a relationship with my son. He is 23 now and I haven’t spoken with him in like five years.
Max: Ah man, that hurts. So where is he now?
Eric: He is in medical school and I am so proud of him, I wish I could tell him that.
Max: Well, who knows, maybe you just did.
Eric: I hope so.
Max: Now did she know about the tapes being made and did she support that effort?
Eric: [laughs] Well, a lot of people have said that, and, well, she was pretty much behind the whole thing. She was a huge part of it. And, you see, what happened is, you got two 18-year-olds, and an 18-year-old woman, she is like 25-26, looking five years down the road, and like me, 18-year-old boy, I’m just looking for something to eat.
A lot of stuff that went down and with what happened was based on Twilittas’ vision of what she thought was going to happen to me, based on what she saw happen to other players. That’s why she encouraged me to, you know, make those tapes.
Max: Now she had a twin sister right?
Eric: No, she had an older sister Carlanda. She dated Aundray Bruce and then she married Walter Reeves.
Max: They called him [Walter] Scooby-Do right?
Eric: No, Scooby-Do was Curtis Stewart. And Scooby-Do dated Twilitta before me.
Max: What was that like?...Playing football with a guy who dated your wife?
Eric: It was crazy man; he would want to fight me and stuff.
Max: Geez. So in '88 you were ready to start playing right?
Eric: Yeah they finally ran out of people to put in front of me. [laughs] I had several players come up to me and say when they were being recruited, coaches were saying things like, "Eric has a wife and a son, he’s not thinking about football, you can get his job," and stuff like that.
I don’t know exactly what took place that made them start picking on me and treating me different, I felt, but I have since found out that Twilitta would go argue with the coaches about my playing time.
Which I had no idea about, so now after 20 years of thinking about all that happened and finding all this kind of stuff out, there are a lot of things I didn’t know that took place that contributed to things that happened.
So I was reacting and responding to all the negative stuff that was being dished out to me, so kind of understand now, both sides of the story.
Max: Wow. You didn't have much of a rock to stand on did you?
Max: Now, I heard, through inside people who were there, that Twilitta had gone to Coach Dye and accused [omitted] of raping her?
Eric: Yeah that’s right; I was there, with her when she told Coach Dye that. Like I said, there were a lot of things that contributed to how I was treated. Because Twilitta wanted to go to the police, and she asked her sister Carlanda, and she said go talk to Coach Dye.
So we did, and Coach Dye said, he asked me, what are you doing here? And I said, well, I made a mistake and I said, I’m dating [Twilitta] now. And he just kind of looked at me.
So now I’m associated with all that mess. And then Twilitta was mad because she thought Coach Dye didn’t want to do anything about it, and she held a lot of resentment about it, and, there you go.
Max: Now why didn’t she go to police herself?
Eric: Initially she wanted to go to police, but then she decided to let it go.
Max: Well now let’s see, so you were both freshman right?
Max: So when were you married?
Eric: 1987 September and divorced in '96.
Max: And then she got pregnant?
Eric: Twilitta got pregnant a couple months after we got married.
Max: So if you had never married Twilitta, you would have never made and released those tapes?
Eric: I wouldn’t have ever even thought about it, like I told you, that thought would have never even come into my head, I didn’t think along those lines. I just knew I was going to go to Auburn and have a wonderful time there. I didn’t know anything about taping people.
That’s how it ended up being. She meant well, she thought she had my best interest in mind by getting me to do that, but at the same time, what was her ulterior motive?
Making the tapes
Max: So what was it like the first time you taped a coach?
Eric: Scary as hell, scary as hell. Here I am going in, and Coach Dennis had agreed to give me some money to pay my car note, and when I get ready to go in, Twilitta said "Here, take this with you." I said, "Take what?"
And she said, "Take this (tape recorder) with you, and don’t say nothing, because it is voice activated, and put this in your pants and go in there and tape these people." And I was like, "Tape them for what?" And she said, “You want to have something on them in case they try and screw you over."...Okay.
So I get my nerve up, and once I go in there, and I felt funny, and Coach Dennis has this look on his face like he knows what’s going on, and I got scared and I said I gotta go Coach, I’ll be right back. So I ran out.
Max: What did Twilitta say, was she with you?
Eric: Yeah, she was in the car, and she called me a chicken and pretty much cussed me out about it.
Max: And then what?
Eric: Well, another incident came up, and I ended up going in and got it, and you know, after a while, as I kept doing it, I got more comfortable with it. And it got to a point even, where we could attach something to the phone and tape it like that.
Max: Now when I listened to the tapes and the first time you went to Coach Dye, he didn’t really say anything right?
Eric: Yeah, that’s right.
Max: And then you went back and talked about the loan from Colonial Bank. So were you out to get Coach Dye?
Eric: No, no, no, all of this was part of the thing to tape everybody who was involved. So anybody who was like getting the money or saying it was okay to get the money, they were part of it.
Eric: And my biggest regret, the thing I felt the worst about, was having to expose Coach Blakeney. I really liked Coach Blakeney. Yeah because all he was doing was trying to facilitate something for me, that I was asking him for.
Max: What about the other coaches?
Eric: Now Coach Dennis, I couldn’t stand Coach Dennis, because he deliberately tried to do things and give me a hard time, one time he kicked me, and I threw his foot off and told him I wasn’t his dog, just so many different things, he tried to agitate me, and would say things about me, tell other players things about me, you know, and it could have been something going on between him and Twilitta, you know, that was the reason that made him act that way towards me.
Max: Yeah, I guess that fits in where I saw in one article on line, that part of your complaints was coaches' harassment and condescending comments.
Eric: That's right.
Max: And then, I thought, well hell, when I was a football player there, I got harassed and condescended every day!
Eric: [laughs] Yeah, but the thing is...WALK-ON!...Whatcha goin do?...Walk-on back?
[We both cracked up at that, this was so true, walk-on = meat on the hoof]
Eric: There are just certain things I don’t like people to say, white or black, so to me, it felt like it could have been more racial, you know racist kind of thing. And then how things were done, like Tiger Walk, all the black guys in the back and the white guys in the front. And just the stigma of being from Alabama.
Max: So the different coaches, you got Blakeney, Dye, Frank Young, and Dennis. Steve Dennis was involved in getting you money too?
Eric: Yeah, that initial time that Coach Dennis did it once too.
Max: Okay, so, now how many different alums? You got Corky [Frost] and Mr. [omitted]?
Eric: Yes. Which he can remain anonymous, because, you know, his name never came up in any of the interviews, as far as that goes.
Max: That’s fine, no problem, remember I told you from the beginning you could tell me what’s on or off, so that’s fine.
Max: Now, were other players receiving the same benefits you were getting?
Eric: I know a few of them that were. I mean, you know, a lot of folks weren’t getting it, but the ones like me who were getting it, they weren’t going to tell.
Max: Who else was getting it that you knew of?
Eric: I know my cousin Vincent Harris, he was getting something. And initially Alex Strong was, but he changed his tune. [Omitted], he was Associate Athletic Director, he asked me how to get money for an abortion, you know.
Max: Why do you think Alex Strong changed his story from saying he was getting money to later say he wasn’t?
Eric: Well now Alex actually had a job working for somebody who was an Auburn Alumni. And I heard that if he didn’t recant his story, he wasn’t going to be working there anymore. And you have to remember, Alex was a married fellow also, and I think he had two kids.
Max: Okay now, here’s another hard question. You’re married and you’re a football player. And you’re going to your coaches for help, you’re asking for it? And they are giving it to you, right?
Max: Since you were asking for help, did you ever feel guilty about getting/keeping the money...why not give it back?
Eric: Hold on, now hold on, let me say this, I didn’t know, you see, Coach Blakeney came to me. Everybody that approached me about money, except for when I initially got it, you know when I found out Coach Young was doing it, for the first five months, everybody else approached me. Ah, Coach Blakeney told me about, the alumni, the guy from Homewood was the one who took care of me and gave me some money.
Max: But in every tape I heard you are asking them for help? For money...So again, did you ever feel guilty about getting & keeping the money?
Eric: Initially I did. But it was going on all around me and most of the time when I was asking for money it was because Twilitta wanted something.
Max: Now the guy in Homewood you mentioned. That was Corky Frost, right?
Eric: No, no, no, that was Mr. [omitted], we didn’t speak about him. And then Corky Frost, after one of the bowl games, he came and introduced himself to me through his daughter, and his daughter come up, and introduced himself and he started talking, he said, he wanted to help me out, because he thinks I’m a really good guy and that I’m trying to do right by them and everything.
And I had done this big reciting thing, I did the 27 Psalms, and all this stuff at the devotion we had with Reverend Bagget, and um, so...[hesitates]...all that was kind of, you know, that way. I didn’t, I didn’t approach any of them at that point. And only initially, you know, like I said, I initially I went to Coach Young, because actually, coach, Coach Hall had told me told me, you know, to go and see him.
Max: There was a rumor back then that Alabama alumni had put you up to making the tapes, is there anything to that rumor?
Eric: No, not at all, I’d be lying if I said that. Actually all that stuff, like I said, was Twilitta telling me I needed some kind of protection if they try and screw me over, and everything that happened after that, feeling like I had had enough.
People were you know, screwing me over and bothering me because I was trying to be the best student athlete I could be, for some reason or another that wasn’t enough and people continued to pick at me.
Max: What was going back to Auburn for the graduation like, after the tapes were released?
Eric: Yeah we both came back, had on bulletproof vests, we got booed and called nigger. Twilitta had a policeman in front of her, we all had on bullet proof vests, one policeman between us, and I had one behind me.
Max: Now how was the death threats delivered to you?
Eric: They blew up one of those big green trash cans in my mother-in-laws’ yard, they shot at the house when my son was in there, when we were up in New York doing the 60 Minutes interview, and then letters and stuff sent to Donald Watkins, he would get all kinds of letters.
Max: Now I heard you guys were shooting birds at the crowd.
Eric: That was Twilitta.
Max: So which bowls did you play in?
Eric: The only bowl I didn’t play in was the first Sugar Bowl we went to, but I played in all the rest though. We did a Hall of Fame Bowl; did we do a Peach Bowl? Let’s see we played a game in Atlanta, we played a game in Arizona and uh, you know what, you’re going to have to research that. [Laughs] I know we won the SEC Championship 3 years in a row. Back, to back, to back.
Max: Do you still have your SEC rings?
Eric: You know, I would love to have them, but unfortunately, my ex-wife Twilitta has them and she won’t give them back.
Max: Now you had all these tapes made and in your control, then you wrote a paper in your senior year on racism at Auburn for a sociology class and it got leaked to the paper right?
Eric: Yeah, what happened there was, my professor was a guy named [omitted], and that paper was never suppose to get to the reporters or anyone else.
Max: So you thought it was private?
Eric: Yes Professor [omitted] had just found out he wasn’t going to get his tenure, and I didn’t want to print the story, and he and Blaire Robinson [of the Montgomery Advertiser] was this reporter married to a black woman and so he was doing this article on racism. And he kind of used me for a scape-goat that going.
And the whole thing for me was, I had promised my grandmother I was going to get my degree, so then, this other class was my last class in literature and this lady flunked me.
And when I went to see her with my son and my Twilitta, the she [the teacher] started running all over the building saying I was trying to harm her and making a big fuss. Then, you know, I said, I’ve had enough. So I got very frustrated and finally said, to the reporter, just go ahead and print your story about my paper!
But looking back on it, it was really stupid decision, because I had just been drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and I was speaking out about Auburn at the same time.
Max: So up until that point right there though, you were living large, in the big time right?
Eric: I was doing okay. You know, I had a wife that complained a lot. I had a son that I loved to death and I would do anything in the world for. Everything was looking good. I was going to fulfill that promise to my grandmother, and I got drafted.
And after being told by coaches that I didn’t have a chance to be drafted, and after other players that were all Americans didn’t get drafted, I got drafted. It was stacked against me but I still got drafted. It was a great thing.
Max: So the backlash from that paper didn’t start until right before you were getting ready to leave Auburn, right? And you graduated when?
Eric: I was supposed to graduate in '90 and then when all that went down and we ended up moving to DC, I got my degree in '92. I was waiting on Twilitta and it took her a couple more years and we both graduated from Auburn.
Max: Oh, okay. Now you had not released the tapes though at this point right?
Eric: That’s right.
Max: Now let me ask this, one source said you were making tapes your last year and another said you were making tapes for three years, which was it?
Eric: Well, it was even longer than three years, from the time I got married to Twiltta until I left.
Max: Okay, so off and on the whole time you were there.
Eric: That’s right.
Max: Now I told you I was going to ask hard questions, so here’s a hard one. You were drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and you didn’t make the team, right?
Max: And at this point you had not released the tapes.
Max: Do you think if you had made the team in Kansas City, that you would have still released the tapes?
Eric: Well, if you can find the article, the one from my paper that was leaked, I said in there that if I didn’t feel like I got a fair shake in Kansas City, don’t be surprised if I tell the rest of the story. So regardless of what happened, one way or the other, it was probably going to take place.
Max: And what happened there [Kansas City]?
Eric: When I got to Kansas City, if they had just left me alone, I probably wouldn’t have release the tapes. When I got there, they started sending all this hate mail, hate Eric messages, saying I was a whistle-blower and a trouble maker and all that, they continued to pick on me and say bad things about me. So maybe, maybe not, I don’t know.
Max: Okay...but you hadn’t released the tapes yet right? Just the paper had been leaked correct?
Eric: Yes. And the fact that people continued to bother me and have issues with me, you know after I had already said my piece, and Blaire Robinson continued to call me, he was probably who I was most upset by, about me getting released from Kansas City, so he asked me, kind of worked on me, that didn’t I want to tell the rest of the story.
Max: Oh, I see. Okay, so you go to Kansas City, so what was the NFL like?
Eric: So much faster, so much faster. And the surprising thing about it is, when I got cut by Kansas City, I was totally surprised. I was totally surprised. The NFL process works like this, if they’re going to cut you, they will like call you at like 3 o'clock in the morning, and you need to come clean your locker out.
So here it is, next to the last cut, and it’s like 10 or 11 o'clock and then all the sudden, out of the blue, this guy Mark, he’s like "Eric Ramsey, Marty [Schottenheimer] wants to talk to you." And I'm like, "Talk to me for what?" Because I just knew I was about to make the team, right?
So, here it is, we go in, and Marty said, "I just want you to know, you can play in the NFL, because when you hit people, they go backwards." And he said, "When we get a practice squad; I’m going to put you on the practice squad." It never happened.
So when [article about my sociology paper] came out, the guy who was the personnel director, I can’t remember his name, he was like, "well I called your agent and I let him know that it had things to do with the Auburn situation."
And I was like, "Why are you even mentioning that? We never said anything about Auburn." So, and, then after that, I kind of waited around to see if they were going to put me on the practice squad, but it never happened, never materialized.
And, and then after that, the next thing I know, two weeks later when the lease was up in Kansas City, Blaire Robinson calls, and he says, all these people are saying bad stuff about you in the paper because you’re getting cut and you couldn’t make it in the NFL, what do you want to do now?
I said, "What do you mean?" And he was like, "Do you want to tell the rest of the story?" And I was, you know, I was a little pissed, and then yeah, and that’s when I told the rest of the story.
Max: So that’s when you released the tapes?
Max: So that’s when Donald Watkins got involved?
Eric: Actually yeah, when the tapes came involved, and then Donald Watkins got involved, because it was just too big for me for me to handle at that time.
Max: That had to be nerve wracking. Where did the tapes go first after Donald Watkins was involved?
Eric: He gave them to 60 Minutes, and to be honest with you, I did not like how he orchestrated the way he just kept putting out the tapes every week, because my thing was, I wanted the NCAA to get the tapes and be done with it.
He drug it out over a long period of time, and you know, I don’t have any ill will towards him, I know Donald did that for his benefit, that gave him a whole hell of a lot of publicity, you know, just considering what he was doing for the mayor of Birmingham, it was a hell of a story. We are talking about big time college football, one of the biggest colleges out there. So, that was all good for his benefit.
Max: Now Donald Watkins told you not to go to the Iron Bowl in disguise right?
Eric: [laughs] Yeah, well, Donald told me a lot of things.
Max: Do you ever speak with him?
Eric: No I haven’t spoken to Donald in several years, I think once Auburns' hype got over with, Donald, like a lot of other people, disappeared as well. I spoke to one of his sons’ the other day, and I told him to tell Donald I said hello.
Max: Now did you ever receive any settlement or other money from Auburn?
Eric: No. And that was one of my questions, if we were claiming racism, why didn’t we go out and try to sue?
Now I heard that there were offers to turn the tapes over and be quiet of upwards between a million to like two to three hundred thousand. Anything that involved money, I pretty much squashed, and turned it down, because I didn’t want to be involved in anything later that said that I tried to extort money from anybody.
Which they ended up saying my ex-wife (Twilitta) tried to do that with Sports Illustrated.
NOTE: Allegedly. Confidential and trusted sources close to these negotiations and the administration of Auburn University relayed to me that the university president Martin was contacted by Donald Watkins (Eric’s Attorney), who offered to sell the tapes to Auburn for $1 million dollars and eventually dropped their price to sell down to $200 thousand. Auburn refused.
The exact same figures were given to me by Eric before I had received the figures from my source as offers to buy the tapes. All of this information is speculative hear-say at best.
Max: And once the tapes were released, you and Twilitta were pretty quickly in front of a sub-committee in Washington, D.C., right?
Eric: Exactly. We did the sub-committee with Congress woman, Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.). That’s funny though that all the records from that hearing, pretty much disappeared, no one has a record of it.
Max: I have a Washington Post article.
Eric: Do you think you can find what I wrote, the speech I gave.
Max: I’ll get on it. Do you still have a copy of the sociology paper that was leaked your senior year?
Eric: I never got a copy of it, he gave it to that reporter [Blaire Robinson] and I never had a copy of it myself.
Max: Yeah, and in those days, I am sure it was hand written.
Eric: Yep, it was. You know! [laughs] I wrote five pages in 10 minutes! [Laughs]
Max: I have a copy of a Washington Post article, where you said college athletics is a modern day plantation system. Elaborate on that for me.
Eric: Speaking as a black player, who came from a low socio-economic background, even though I had a definite take on life and I had some sense about me, you know Pat Dye and everybody else admitted, that they brought us there to play football, they pretty much wanted football players and nothing else, not a student.
I felt like they just wanted us to do what they wanted us to do, you know, winning games and everything else like that. And they didn’t care whether or not you got an education. That was pretty much what it was like in slavery days, you work and work and work, and we don’t want you to be educated. Because education is knowledge, and knowledge is knowing you can do more than just playing football.
Max: Well, let’s see, what was your grade point average?
Eric: My grade point average ended up being, once I got myself together, I ended up being a 2.8, something like that. Which could have been much better back then, but being a husband, having a wife, the fact that I was making a grade, good enough to play football, was good enough back then.
Max: So, looking back on your days in school, as a student at Auburn, do you wish you would have applied yourself better?
Eric: I wish, initially starting off, that I would have been the student athlete that I wanted to be. That I said I was going to be, because making that promise to my grandmother, and that meant doing well in school, not just making the grade.
I didn’t start making better grades until I got serious about my son you know, needed a good example. I didn’t want him to see me like my father, uneducated and everything else.
Max: Now when I played, I was an Engineering student, I played '77 through '79, and when I quit playing football, I still had school left, and I worked for the Athletic Department as one of about 20 tutors on the second floor of Sewell Hall. Did you use the tutors provided?
Eric: Yeah, I did take advantage of the tutors.
Max: What was your major?
Eric: I started off in Criminal Justice/Pre Law, but I soon realized I couldn’t do that and be a football player. So I switched it over to Criminology.
Max: Have you been to an Auburn game since then?
Eric: No. I would love to but the threats have been pretty consistent, you know, it may have changed a little bit now, the attitudes may have changed over the years have caused me to not want to go there and to put myself in harm’s way or cause any extra attention towards me, because it’s not about me, anything could happen.
Max: What would you say to the Auburn fans?
Eric: Oh I’d tell the Auburn fans War Damn Eagle!...They don’t know what really happened; they were on the outside looking in. If they could walk a mile in my moccasins, they see how different everything was.
It amazes people to find out that I still cheer for Auburn and I want the best for them, I cheered probably harder than anyone else when they won the National Championship, I don’t begrudge Auburn, I don’t dislike Auburn, what happened to me was an isolated incident, you know, it could happen to anybody.
The fact that it was me and that I could get over it, you know, it amazes people that I have. Like I said, it is not something that I dwell on the only time it comes up is when someone else talks about it.
Whether or not they like me or hate me or whatever, I am still an Auburn guy. That will never change.
Max: Do you keep up with any of your teammates?
Eric: Yeah, I talk to a few of them. You know, people have changed, it's been almost 20-something years since this stuff has taken place. They’ll tell me they were thinking about me, or they thought about me. One person I talk to every now and then is Charles Brown, they call him Tea-Pot, and Robert Zander and a few other people. A lot times, I think, you know, people think I am taping them or something.
Max: [laughing] Well, a man’s reputation goes right along with him, right?
Eric: [laughing] I know right? I know, and the thing is, I love those guys, and I don’t have any ill will towards anyone.
Max: Now here is a hypothetical question, if you could change just one thing in your life, what would that be?
Eric: Wow, one thing. If I could one thing it would be my decision to get married. I would have never gotten married at 18 years old.
Max: Do you believe you would have ever made those tapes if you were not married?
Eric: No. A lot of things, a lot of decisions that were made, by me because of the type of person that I am, I would not have made them at any other time, if I was not influenced to make them. I mean, I got married on an ultimatum.
I think being vulnerable and being a person who relied so heavily on their grandmother, and was very close to her, once she died, just not being around her and her being able to help me make some decisions. I was just in a messy situation; I didn’t have her around to give me guidance which she had always done up until she died.
Max: What was the ultimatum she gave you to get married?
Eric: She said if I didn’t marry her, she was going to move to Detroit and live with her friend. For some reason I thought I needed her and that was who I wanted to be with, to definitely be with and everything else. This really was what it boiled down just being infatuated.
And Twilitta had a way of saying things, she was a very influential person, she had a way of saying things and makes you think it was the right thing to do.
Max: So who, out of all this, paid the heaviest price of all?
Eric: I used to say we all did, people at Auburn could say Auburn did, and then I could say I did. The crazy thing is I am one of the happiest people to ever walk the earth, everything happens for a reason, and I was suppose to deal with that and become a better person. Which, I feel that, I am today.
Max: So what’s been the low point in your life?
Eric: The lowest point in my life, like I said, is still that I don’t have a relationship with my son. I miss my son, I love my son to death and I don’t have a relationship with him, and I think he has been encouraged to not have a relationship with me. And I don’t think that is necessarily fair. It doesn’t have a direct correlation with what happened at Auburn, but the Auburn situation has impact on the fact, I can’t speak with my son.
Max: Have you ever spoken with Coach Dye since then?
Eric: Never have. Never have. I would love to talk with Coach Dye like I said there is no ill will on my part or animosity towards him or anybody. Like I said, it’s been twenty something years.
Max: I haven’t spoken directly to Coach Dye, but I have spoken to people who are very close to him and were with him when all this happened, and the only comment Coach Dye said, in relation to you, was that he felt pity for you.
Eric: Oh wow. I don’t need anyone to feel pity for me.
Max: Well, he was referring to the whole situation with Twilitta, because he and many around him suspected what you have confirmed today.
Eric: Oh in that case, hell yeah, I had pity for me too! I was very naïve when it came to that, I wish my grandmother would have been around, or I wish I had listened to my own conscience too because some things happened and the way things went down, I didn’t really like. Even when we got to the point of being with Donald (Watkins, atty), there were things I just didn’t like.
A good friend of mine, on the team, he said “Eric if you do this, your life is going to change … forever!” and I said “I know, but Twilitta said”… and there you go.
I think I let my anger, which Twilitta was feeding me all the time, get the best of me. Because if you knew me as a child, or if you knew anything about my personality, I was a likable person that everybody got along with.
If you go back and trace my record, at Auburn and before, through all the turmoil, up until the paper and the tapes came out, nobody had anything bad thing to say about me. They may have had bad things to say about Twilitta, but they didn’t have anything bad to say about me.
At the end of the day, everybody had some kind of role in it. But at the same time, I have to take responsibility for that, I made the final decision, because all those around me were telling me it was the right thing to do.
Max: If you could say one thing to Coach Dye, what would it be?
Eric: If I could say one thing to Coach Dye I would tell him I am sorry the way things turned out the way they did. I know everybody wanted to play hardball, I think if they had just listened to what I had to say and just heard me out, and none of this would have taken place.
Max: So what did you get from all this Eric?
Eric: I lost a possible pro football career, I was ostracized by the whole Auburn community, some of my teammates, my friends, or so called friends, I was used by a, whatever you want to call him, attorney, used by a reporter, ended up getting a divorce from my ex-wife, and worst of all, ended up being estranged from my son.
Max: It doesn’t sound like you got much positive out of that whole deal did you?
Eric: The only thing I got positive out of that all was fulfilling my promise to my grandmother and getting my college education. Even to the detriment of being booed and called nigger at graduation.
Max: And you could have done that without the tapes.
END OF INTERVIEW
So let me try and summarize. In the end, Auburn University, the Auburn family and Eric Ramsey all lost.
Auburn lost millions of dollars in television revenue, athletic scholarships, reputation, good-will and the trust of its loyal alumnus, fans and students. Auburns’ trust in its coaches and athletic department was violated. They broke the rules they had agreed to abide by, they were caught, and were punished. They deserved what they got and they have recovered.
All of Eric’s trusted inner circle, around him for advice and counsel, for purportedly his best interest, failed him. The reporter, the professor, his then wife and his attorney all of whom it appears, at one point or another, at least in reflection, give Eric the impression of ulterior motives, hidden agendas as well as withheld information from him.
What Eric did was wrong. He also took advantage of his own trusted advisers, his coaches, and turned what was an outreach of support and trust, though highly illegal, into his own personal vendetta to assert his own justice on a system that, to him, was treating him and other blacks unfairly. Under normal circumstances, he would have never violated that trust. He gained nothing from this and has suffered immensely, even to this day. He is fully aware and takes full responsibility for all of the decisions and actions he under took, no question. And for that is sorry and has moved on with his life.
With only a cursory inspection of Eric’s childhood, he had an incredibly low chance of success. A childhood filled with barely manageable economics, drugs, a broken home and an absent father, a vulnerable young man that was ultimately taken advantage of by all those around him.
With no real parenting, except for his grandmother, who passed away in Eric’s junior year of high school, and, as it turns out, no reliable trusted advisers in his life, Eric set out on the adventure of a lifetime, with opportunities most of us could only dream of. Only to wind up scorned and excommunicated from his friends, school and, most damaging to him, his son. He caused it, he accepts that.
He was, admittedly, a very naïve and vulnerable young man from the projects. In his own words, as he described, just a kid really. A kid who, at that time, got involved with the wrong people, he made bad decisions and is still paying the price. These were people around him who were feeding this vulnerability with stories for their own sake. Weaving clandestine operations with promises of what is best for him. He made a lot of mistakes, and would do it all different now if he could. He is sorry.
This did not have to be this way. Our universities can do a better job of taking care of our young men's minds and souls while they give us their hearts and sacrifice their bodies for our entertainment. We have given you our sons.
Despite all of these setbacks, Eric Ramsey runs a successful company, seems grounded, happy and at peace. He is a strong Christian man and has absolution for his actions from God and Auburn has its National Championship.
My personal opinion was positively impacted by spending this amount of time with Eric, and I feel confident that any reasonable person would feel the same way. I am not an investigator, but I do have access to some inside sources that only confirmed what was told here today. And I am confident that this story is absolutely as it happened from Eric’s perspective. I feel lucky to have become acquainted with him and count him as a friend.
Eric has moved on, and I respect that. Up until this interview, no one had ever asked for his side of the story. He knew it, we did not.
The question I would like to raise is this. Has the Auburn Family, regarding Eric Ramsey, moved on as well?
I know, from the hours I have spent with Eric, the Auburn Family, for no real good reason, ended up losing a good man.
I plan on doing a series of these stories on the people behind the stories we all know, or at least think we know. So before I did one on anyone else, I believed the right thing to do from a credibility standpoint was to air family laundry first. Some in my Auburn family will no doubt condemn me. Personally, with my own extensive list of transgressions, I have been forgiven, by the only One that matters, and don’t feel as though I have a right to judge any man. Grace is a wonderful thing. And, if anyone deserves revenge and retribution, I figure He is a lot better equipped than I to ferret that kind of stuff out.
Auburn was breaking the rules and got caught. For that matter, Alabama has broken rules and been caught. I am quite sure each program has gotten away with so much more than any of us can even conceive or imagine, and got away with it. The only difference is who has been caught doing what and when.
Deal with it.
I am surprised after just recently becoming a writer for Bleacher Report at the level of unmitigated audacity shown by fervent fans from my school and our brethren in Tuscaloosa over who amongst us is the biggest cheater.
Get over it.
Reminds me of a couple of drunken Baptist deacons slobbering all over themselves trying to convince themselves and the world around them that it is only the other who deserves total damnation because he was the first one in Hooters. I was only there trying to save his soul. Yeah, right.
And we only go there for the wings. No disrespect to Hooters intended.
We don’t need a truce, that only temporarily ceases aggression and retaliation maneuvers. We need joint frontal lobotomies. If we don’t get our acts together as a state of back-to-back National Champions and Heisman Trophy winners, (which I dare say, is a feat, that will never be bested) that clearly represents the Mecca of college football, it will only inspire more senseless maniacal behavior like what has happened at Toomers Corner.
Only an IDIOT, in this state, would accuse anyone other than themselves. If we collectively spent half the time we do trying to make ourselves look good and the other one look bad, and put those efforts in either self enforcement or lobbying those that can, we wouldn’t have these kinds of problems in the first place.
That’s been bugging me, could you tell? Alright, 'nuff said.