There were times in recent years that former Auburn quarterback Chris Todd’s life as a financial advisor was spinning at a faster rate than a Gus Malzahn-designed offense.
“I got really, really busy about three years ago when I was doing a lot and I had like a crash, basically,” Todd said. “I was really ramped up going 1,000 miles an hour working with about 18 different organizations.
“I kind of fell on my face.”
It was then the former Auburn quarterback decided to take a step back in time and return to the university to pursue a degree in psychology.
“To some degree, it’s been about going back and understanding what’s going on with myself and understanding other people,” Todd said.
Todd was in Dothan on Tuesday for a speaking engagement at the Wiregrass Auburn Club held at Southern Social. Before the event, he took time to talk about where he is in life while also sharing some thoughts about Malzahn leading the Auburn football program.
“I started reading it (psychology) four or five years ago and I like the complexity about it,” said Todd, who previously earned a degree in finance. “In class, I’m like a little kid in a candy store. I like learning stuff.”
Todd’s initial path to Auburn as a football player had many interesting twists and turns.
A star high school quarterback in Elizabethtown, Ky., Todd spent two seasons, one being a redshirt, at Texas Tech playing for Mike Leach before transferring to Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College and “getting beat up” for a season.
“The first week I was there, we did a max lift test, and I remember I had a higher bench press than every starting offensive lineman except for one,” Todd said.
“You try to play tough for a while and then it becomes about survival. I made it to the last game of the season and ended up having a shoulder injury.”
Todd next signed with Auburn in 2008 after Tony Franklin had been hired away from Troy by Tommy Tuberville to become the Tigers’ new offensive coordinator. Todd had ties to Franklin back to when Franklin was an assistant at the University of Kentucky.
Franklin was known for his wide-open, spread offense and Todd would earn the starting job his first year at Auburn.
But when Auburn struggled in the new system, Franklin would be dismissed midway through the season and Todd would also lose his starting job to Kodi Burns.
“It should be expected there are going to be some bumps when you’re making that jump,” Todd said. “You’ve been recruiting for one style of offense for x amount of years and then you’re trying to move to this. It’s usually about a two or three year process.
“We were going through some of those hurdles at first and I was just coming off the shoulder injury, so I was severely diminished with what I could do with my arm talent.
“At the end of the day, there were some issues up there. There were a lot of weird dynamics.”
Auburn lost six of its final seven games that season in finishing 5-7. Tuberville also lost his job.
“There’s a firing order,” Todd explained. “You fire the OC and the next guy is the quarterback. And then the head coach gets fired. I was just part of the lineup.”
When Gene Chizik was hired as the new Auburn head coach and Malzahn was brought in from Tulsa as the offensive coordinator, Todd would have a fresh start.
“I decided to have surgery the day after Christmas in 2008,” Todd said of having his shoulder repaired. “I spent most of the spring rehabbing to get back. I was starting from scratch. I had no value set up with anybody there.”
But Todd did have the ability to earn the starting job as a senior, and led Auburn to a respectable 8-5 season, 5-3 in SEC play.
It would set the tone for Auburn winning a national championship the next year after the arrival of JUCO transfer quarterback Cam Newton as the offense under Malzahn became envied by all of college football.
“He was doing fast-pace offenses, which a lot of people were not doing, and he had a little bit of different style,” Todd said. “They used to call it window dressing, or he had moving parts with people in motion back behind the quarterback.”
Critics often say Malzahn doesn’t develop quarterbacks well.
Todd says otherwise.
“I got to add to my game when he came in,” Todd said. “I had worked with some really good quarterback coaches and had lots of training, but what he did differently is he had a lot of timed routes. I had done some of that, but not to that level, so I got to add to my game when he brought that in.”
Todd does believe other coaches caught up to a lot of the things Malzahn was once doing offensively, but he also still has faith Malzahn is the right man to lead Auburn.
“He’s shown he can be successful,” Todd said. “He’s producing very successful players. He got back to the national championship a couple of years after they won. I think he’s still capable.
“Being in the CEO is very different in being the offensive coordinator. Now it’s turning more into delegation and learning how to put the puzzle together.”
As for Todd, he’s still piecing his life together.
Besides being a college student again, he’s keeping a hand in football by tutoring young quarterbacks.
“I have fun helping them with their progression,” Todd said. “Some of the psychology stuff is super helpful in learning to communicate with the kid more effectively and understanding there are different ways people learn.”
Todd is also writing a book about his times on and off the football field.
“At the end of the day I want to be able to tell my story in a way that people can apply to their own life,” Todd said.
“I’ve done some cool stuff and I’ve also been through some stuff. I figure if it can helpful for other people that it would be great.”