Jeremiah Dinson just smiled.
‘It’s personal,’ his teammate posted earlier this week, before Auburn’s trip down to Florida.
Dinson, the Tigers’ senior safety from Miami, could only grin.
“Yeah, you could say that,” he said, when he was asked if he felt the same way.
Auburn has 18 players from the state of Florida on its roster, and for them, this Saturday’s battle between No. 7 Auburn and No. 10 Florida means just that much more.
“It’s personal,” is what sophomore receiver Anthony Schwartz from Pembroke Pines, Fla., posted to Twitter on Sunday.
“Definitely personal,” sophomore running back Shaun Shivers, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., replied on social media.
In front of the podium Tuesday, Dinson seemed right on that same page.
“It just means a lot to me,” Dinson said at Auburn’s weekly press conference, on playing in the Sunshine State. “We’re going down there, playing Florida in a real tough environment, in The Swamp. It’s real tough down there to play.
“But it’s going to be fun. I know some players on that team, and it’s going to be a fun game.”
He said he hasn’t talked to any of those acquaintances this week. Of course, he’s focused on his team — which counts fellow defensive back Javaris Davis, from Jacksonville, Fla., and receiver Eli Stove, from Niceville, Fla., as those who came north across the Florida line to Auburn in recruiting.
Dinson was almost a Gator.
“I was really close,” Dinson said. “It was either Auburn or Florida. But, you know, I’m here.”
No one on Auburn’s current roster has played Florida — except senior right tackle Jack Driscoll, who came to Auburn in time for last season as a graduate transfer from UMass. He actually made his first start at UMass in The Swamp during a Florida non-conference tune-up to open the 2016 season.
The last time Auburn played Florida was in 2011. Auburn hasn’t been to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville since 2007.
Auburn played Florida annually in almost every year in the 20th century before SEC realignment made meetings more intermittent in the early 2000’s — and then a rarity after conference expansion seven years ago.
After Saturday, Auburn isn’t scheduled to play Florida again until 2024.
That makes this game even more special for those Auburn players that came to the Plains from the state of Florida.
“I mean, we treat every game the same. But, like you said, we’re from Florida, so it means a little bit more, just going back to our home state,” Dinson said.