Bo Nix could’ve flipped through the pages like a child with his favorite storybook.
Every turn brought to mind more of the heroes he had read about since he was a boy, and more stories of their incredible feats and epic encounters.
These weren’t fairytales. This was actually a book compiling Auburn football history, pulled from a shelf somewhere in Kenny Dillingham’s house sometime this past offseason. Dillingham was still new to Auburn then, and the book helped the Tigers’ new offensive coordinator be better versed on Auburn’s past.
Of course, Nix just about knew it all already.
“He’s like the walking encyclopedia,” Dillingham remembered fondly in the preseason. “I mean, we have the quarterbacks over to my house — and I forget what we were talking about — and Bo talked about, like, a 1987 game where we caught a fade ball or something.
“And I go to a book I have of Auburn history — and he’s over here telling me about things that happened before he was born.”
Nix knows Auburn.
And he hears Auburn.
He’s worked quietly over recent weeks as every fan, supporter and detractor has seemingly taken the chance to say their piece.
Now he has his chance to tell his own part of the Auburn football story, as the rivalry games come to Jordan-Hare.
“I know the season’s not over with yet,” the second-generation quarterback said, determined, speaking moments after Auburn’s second loss of the season last Saturday and just a few steps outside a defeated locker room in Baton Rouge, La.
“I feel like everybody’s going to count us out and they’re going to start throwing us to the curb,” he said. “But once again, that’s what always happens to Auburn — and we know what we’re capable of.”
Ask Seth Williams, and he’ll probably respond with his familiar, sly smile.
Williams wore that smile Tuesday, almost as if the full measure of “what we’re capable of” is the Auburn locker room’s best-kept secret. That locker room is behind Nix completely, he said. Nix is going to be a special player in big games, he said, and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world sees that.
When Williams spoke Tuesday afternoon before Auburn’s practice that day, redshirt freshman quarterback Joey Gatewood had already met head coach Gus Malzahn in secret, to talk about his leaving the team. The rumors about it started to fly around social media a few hours later that night — and with it there spewed criticism, of Malzahn, of Auburn and of Nix. As Nix’s mother said in a widely shared Facebook post written after Auburn’s loss to Florida in early October, the family knew not every Saturday would be like Nix’s magic debut against Oregon which saw him throw the game-winning touchdown pass to Williams. Nix struggled in losses on the road at Florida and at LSU. Described by teammates as his own harshest critic, Nix knows that.
But with him, Auburn knows it is confident, even against Georgia, even against Alabama, and against anyone else who’d dare cross the line into Jordan-Hare Stadium on Auburn’s final four-game home stand.
“What is it about Bo that makes you guys so confident in him?” a reporter asked Williams then Tuesday.
There was that smile.
“It’s Bo,” he shrugged. What else needs be said? As for the ups and the downs — the growing and the growing pains from the freshman gunslinger — the players will take it all.
Nix is all in on Auburn. Auburn’s locker room is all in on Nix — and bent on bringing the fans on the bandwagon with them after four big wins to end the regular season.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Williams said. “He knows the defense. He knows how to play offense.
“He knows how to get it done when it needs to be done.”
There’s no better time at Auburn than against Georgia and against Alabama.
And there’s nobody on the team who knows that better than Nix.
At the end of a wild week that’s blown over the Plains, Nix has his chance to remind everyone just who he is.
“He was born and raised an Auburn baby,” Dillingham said, back in that preseason interview in August. “He’ll be an Auburn player. He’ll be an Auburn man. Then he’ll be an Auburn dad, and he’ll be an Auburn granddad.”
It’s in him.
And it isn’t going anywhere.
“We’re going to continue to fight and battle,” Nix said, before walking off toward the bus in the Louisiana night there in Death Valley. “That’s just what kind of players we are.
“We’re Auburn men and we’re not going to give up.”