Auburn band savors memories from Chris Davis' 'kick six'

When Auburn cornerback Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown to win last year’s Iron Bowl over Alabama, it was the kind of “where were you” moment that no fan of the Tigers or the Tide will ever forget.

At Jordan-Hare Stadium, fans had barely caught their breath after an equally improbable ending to Auburn’s previous game, a stunning victory over Georgia two weeks earlier. So Davis’ “kick six,” as it would become known, sent them over the top — yet another confirmation, they believed, that 2013 was a season of destiny.

After Davis crossed the goal line, thousands from the announced crowd of 87,451 descended upon the playing field, forming a sea of humanity. (And there are probably countless more who weren’t there or never left the stands who will forever tell their friends and family that they had.)

But for one group, packed together feet from the field in the southeast corner of the lower bowl, the reaction was as measured as the metronomes that normally keep them in time.

For the 380 members of the Auburn University marching band, led by Dr. Corey Spurlin, it was just as important to celebrate the occasion sonically as it was to be part of the mob on the field — and as far as the band is concerned, its role in the post-game hullabaloo was, in some ways, as critical to fans’ memories of the event as the play that sparked the maelstrom itself.

“I can’t say that I’ve really seen anything like that before,” said Spurlin, a graduate of Alabama and fellow SEC West rival LSU, himself, in a phone interview with FOX Sports. “Next fall will mark my 20th year being associated with an SEC band. This is my eighth year at Auburn, and 20 years with some SEC band, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen an ending to a game quite like that.”

Simply put, Spurlin continued, a moment like that, like an award-winning film, wouldn’t have been complete without a score, and he was proud of the way his kids snapped into action, from the piccolos to the tubas, once the gravity of the moment became clear.

“Obviously they’re very excited, it’s such an intense moment, but I think our students do a very good job of recognizing their responsibilities,” Spurlin said. “They’re kind of the soundtrack of Auburn football, and such an amazing finish to a game needs to be immediately followed by War Eagle. They need to hear it on TV, they need to hear it in the stadium, and it gives people goosebumps, so that’s our responsibility.”

Of course, that’s not to say that the band didn’t celebrate one of the most memorable moments in Auburn history. Plenty of the band’s members became overcome with euphoria, but fortunately for those who found themselves lost in jubilation, their reactions to the most far-fetched ending one could ever imagine were captured in a 1-minute clip with nearly a million views on YouTube one year later:

In fact, one of the most stirring reactions came from Spurlin, himself, who threw his arms up in celebration — conveniently, that’s also his sign to play the fight song after a score — before jumping from the stand of head drum major Emily Gray and into the arms of graduate assistant Aaron Toft once he realized the game had been won.

“I didn’t even really remember doing that until I saw the video,” Spurlin said. “I didn’t remember all the things that I did in reaction to that score because it was such an unbelievable moment in sports.

“I was just excited, and Aaron is on the headset with our athletic department throughout the whole game, so we pretty much stand next to each other the whole season, we watch these games together, we make calls for the band together, so it was kind of an amazing way to end the regular season for us.”

Toft, meanwhile, was practically inconsolable, losing his headset as he jumped up and down, then embracing assistant drum major Gerritt Keaton, who had come over from his podium. Toft then fell to his knees, apparently praising the heavens before climbing back to his feet and hugging Keaton once again. A longtime Auburn fan, Toft actually completed his undergraduate studies at Kentucky, but says he never lost his passion for the Tigers.

“It was kind of disbelief at first,” said Toft, now a band director at Hiram High School, near Atlanta. “I mean, I can’t believe this is happening. And then I kind of went nuts, and from there, it’s kind of a blur, really. … (To win) in that moment, and in that fashion, I think you saw 87,000 people have the same reaction. It was just bedlam after that.”

Similarly, Keaton, a native of Decatur, Ala., said he wasn’t so sure how he’d initially reacted to the win until he saw it on film with his own eyes.

“In the moment, when things like that happen, I don’t know if there’s really a thought process to it,” said Keaton, now the head drum major in this year’s Auburn band. “Aaron was just the closest person without an instrument to celebrate with, and he was, as you can see, pretty emotional about it, as was I. You’ve got to find somebody in the Auburn family to celebrate with sometimes. It was a great moment for us.”

Eventually, though, Keaton did regain his wits about him enough to get back to conducting (near the end of the clip) — and no one is exactly blaming him for taking most of the War Eagle fight song to do so. As a kid, Keaton grew up tailgating and going to Auburn games with his uncle when he could, so when it came time to apply to college, Auburn was his first and only option.

“Some things just make you want to run through a brick wall, and you just get so excited and so in the moment,” Keaton said. “As drum majors, we stay composed and stay with the game and with the plays so that we can respond accordingly, and even during the celebration I was still in the game, letting those around me know what we were going to play next, and move on.

“There was the celebration, and for every band member, there was that sense of what we were doing in the moment and what that meant historically.”

Perhaps the most stoic through all of it was the head drum major, Gray, who is standing atop the platform in the center of the screen, behind Toft and Spurlin. But that, she says, wasn’t due to a lack of excitement, but just her knowing that it’s part of the job description.

The band at Jordan-Hare is positioned on the end of the field where Davis fielded the kick, so by the time he reached the end zone, in the opposite corner, Gray could only see by watching on the video board, but once she knew Davis wasn’t going to be caught, it was go time.

“Looking down the field, you have no perspective, no relativity of where they are on the field,” Gray told FOX Sports. “So I’m looking at the Jumbotron, and I’m thinking, ‘You’ve got daylight, a lot of room, a lot of daylight,’ so I go into game-day mode. It’s like, ‘Come on, you’ve got to get up, gotta get your horns up, gotta get going,’ and then he scores the touchdown.”

Unfortunately, all the focus in the world was no match for the sound emanating from the crowd at Jordan-Hare, so getting the band in order still required some improvisation.

“You’ve got a whistle, so normally you might give warning tweets — a quick tweet, tweet — so they know to respond by looking at you, getting whatever hand sign you put up, and then I tweet you off with the tempo of the tune, and then we’re into the tune,” Gray said. “Well, this is unlike any scenario we’ve ever had. I’ve done five years of band at this point ... and in all of those game scenarios, every single one of them, I’ve never had a stadium be that loud.

“So at this point, it’s like, ‘Whistles — what whistles?’ Nobody can hear them. But luckily, the band knows as well as I do that it’s their job to play, even when they’re excited. So they see it, enough of them catch it that we can start playing, and from there on out, it’s just crazy, pandemonium.”

Though you might not be able to detect it in the clip, Gray says she did find time to celebrate the 34-28 victory, in her own way.

“I’m trying to stay in what I’m doing and conduct, but I’m looking around, taking in the moment, and you just see students coming down in waves from the student section,” said Gray, who is now pursuing a graduate degree at Alabama, of all places. “We don’t storm the field — I’ve been told that since I was a freshman; Auburn doesn’t storm the field, it’s just not what we do — so you’re seeing this happen and you’re in disbelief.”

In a moment like that, though, an over-the-top meltdown is probably acceptable, if not expected — even from the band.

“Looking back at that moment, watching the play, hearing it on the radio, you immediately hear War Eagle, and that’s something that we’re really proud of,” Keaton said. “And I’m glad it’s caught on video, because it’s not often you can say that one of the happiest moments of your life has been captured on video.”

Added Gray: “There are moments when you feel like you’re all on the same page — not just the staff and the band and the student section, but every fan sitting around you, all the way to that fan in the nosebleed section on the opposite side of the stadium — all breathing in and out at the same time. And it just proves that you just have to watch down to the last second.

“In that moment, at the Iron Bowl, it was five years of work basically put into one moment, and I’m looking at 380 of my closest friends, and we’re all getting to share a moment that hopefully nobody will ever be able to forget.”

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Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021. One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines. Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide. Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports. Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.