It’s difficult to look back on the Auburn-Georgia series without bringing up Junior Rosegreen.
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native was a senior when the Tigers and Bulldogs met in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 13, 2004. While it was a game that would etch Rosegreen’s name into The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, it actually started out as one he hoped to forget.
“I lost my grandma on that day before the Georgia game,” Rosegreen recalled. “My family was crying and I said, ‘Why cry? Grandma lived until she was 99. I’m going to show y’all what I’m going to do for grandma. She died, but I’m fixing to turn up for her.'”
Rosegreen set out to do something special on his senior night. He’d earned the nickname “The Mouth of the South” for his promises to deliver memorable performances — he called his shot and promised 4 interceptions at Tennessee on Oct. 2, 2004, too — and he had big plans for the Bulldogs.
Georgia players didn’t really help themselves, either. Leading up to that weekend, some Bulldogs had called out defensive back (and Georgia native) Carlos Rogers for “talking trash.” By the time the weekend arrived, an already emotional Rosegreen was further fueled by pregame taunts from the visiting team.
“We walked out of the tunnel for pregame. We didn’t have our pads on, we had our warm-up suits on and they were down there talking trash,” Rosegreen said. “I did what I told them I was going to do. I just loved it.”
The result was horrific. Georgia wide receiver Reggie Brown, who was leading the SEC in receiving yards in ’04, was knocked unconscious after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Rosegreen. The strike, by the standards of today, would be illegal and led to rule changes in the SEC.
Rosegreen admits that he was trying to play tough and force a big play, but he “wasn’t trying to hurt nobody.”
“I had so much stuff going on as far as emotions with my grandma because I was close to my grandma,” Rosegreen said. “But football is a physical game. I always remember my defensive coordinator Gene Chizik used to always tell me ‘Be the hammer, not the nail.’ I’m not going to let nobody hurt me. I’m not going to let nobody knock me out.
“I’m going to always keep my head on a swivel. I couldn’t do nothing else. He ducked his head and I came up under him. If I had hit him any other way I would have hurt myself. Being scared and timid, you’re going to always get hurt. I was going at him full speed.”
Of course, there were other big moments in the Auburn-Georgia rivalry. He recalls a Rogers interception vividly and will always remember watching “The Prayer in Jordan-Hare.”
Rosegreen sees similarities between the 2017 Georgia Bulldogs and teams of the program’s past.
“They’re the same Georgia,” Rosegreen said. “They’re going to run, they’re going to pound it and they’re going to try to hit you with the deep ball.”
Yet Rosegreen also can picture his beloved Tigers having success in the SEC title game in Atlanta this weekend. He’s going to do everything he can to be sitting in the stands at kickoff. He sees himself in a younger Tray Matthews and hopes to see current Auburn players have their own memorable stories to tell years from now.
This Auburn team has something that could be invaluable, he thinks.
‘We don’t get too high, we don’t get too low. We’re just even. That’s how you be great: You stay right in the middle,” Rosegreen said. “All the young men have the eye of the tiger right now and when we have the eye of the tiger we are dangerous. Trust me.”
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