AU banquet honors AC

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hundreds of Auburn University alums hollered “War Eagle!” on more than one occasion in the Helen Parrish Activity Center at First Methodist Church in Clanton Tuesday evening.

Members of the Chilton Auburn Club gathered to eat freshly grilled steaks and honor defensive lineman Antonio Coleman with their 44th annual Unsung Hero award.

Because he recently signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bills, Coleman had to back out of the engagement at the last minute. But that didn’t stop the recent graduate from making an appearance.

AU football team chaplain the Rev. Chette Williams dialed up Coleman on his cell phone, and Charles Bates held a microphone up to it as the player gave a heartfelt thanks to members of the Chilton chapter.

“I feel special to be a part of the Auburn family,” Coleman said. “Thank you all for being there for the last five years of my life. I love you, and War Eagle.”

His words were met with a vibrant repetition and appreciative standing ovation.

Prior to the call, the club played a highlight video documenting Coleman’s best plays on the high school and college fields. The video also featured comments from head coach Gene Chizik and other AU players and coaches as well as a look into Coleman’s unique background.

Williams spoke on Coleman overcoming several personal adversities, including witnessing his brother commit suicide and having to raise his five nieces and nephews afterward.

“This kid is incredible,” Williams said. “I don’t care if he ever plays football again. He’s my personal unsung hero.”

Williams joked that Coleman will always pride himself in the orange and blue colors of Auburn even if he has a new employer at the next level.

Williams also commented on attending the program’s recent stretch of spring practices, suggesting they were putting the team on a path to gridiron success.

“This was one of the best spring practices in the 11 years I’ve been here,” he said. “I really appreciate the coaches and how they’re able to motivate.”

Previously scheduled special guest speaker Trooper Taylor was also unable to attend due to recruiting duties. Williams stepped in with a variation on the lively AU assistant coach. The chaplain donned a backwards cap and waved a “Trooper Towel” as he stepped up to the podium, riling up the Tiger fans even more.

Prior to hearing the evening’s speakers, alums feasted on steaks cooked by Donnie Bean and his team of grillers. Bean was later awarded with the John McAfee award for his service to the club.

Orange and blue tablecloths covered the room, as members of the Auburn Alumni Association also sold memorabilia and held a silent auction benefiting the scholarship endowment.

Club president Charles Bates greeted the crowd with a spirited “War Eagle!” and waited for their retort. After thinking they could do better, he asked for another, and they delivered a big one.

Club member Dale Lenoir spoke about the club’s earnings for the scholarship endowment and pleaded with people to keep giving to the worthy cause even if economic times are tough.

“Times may be hard, folks,” he said. “But Auburn’s worth it.”

He said the club has already raised the $8,000 for two half-scholarships this school year.

To close the ceremony, Mike Cooper led the crowd in a boisterous cheer spelling out each of the school’s letters, followed by applause.