How does it feel to be on an SEC championship team that didn’t advance to the national championship game? Former Parkview High standout Brad Lester was a freshman running back on the 2004 Auburn team, which won the SEC championship with a 12-0 record, but was bypassed by USC and Oklahoma for the title match.
Lester, 28, played two seasons in the CFL after finishing at Auburn in 2008. He is the owner of Lilburn-based Athletes Elite Performance training facility — and training himself to qualify in the 100 meters at next year’s Olympic Trials, even though he didn’t run track in college.
Q: What do you remember about the 2004 SEC Championship game?
A: We did so well, and we dominated the scoreboard (defeating Tennessee 38-28). And we still didn’t get to play in the national championship game, even though we were 12-0. We had nothing to do with being left out. It was a situation where things didn’t work out in our favor. It was all something that we wish we had a shot at. We wanted the chance to compete for a national championship, and we didn’t get it.
Q: With the SEC later winning seven national titles in a row, how do you look back at that 2004 snub?
A: It’s kind of funny. Things happen, and they don’t always happen the way you want them to. It kind of gives you something to look back on, and it actually motivates the program to do better.
Q: Are there hard feelings about the 2004 snub?
A: No, not really hard feelings. Obviously, you always want to get to the national championship, especially when you’re undefeated. But there are no hard feelings. They picked who they wanted in the game, the teams they thought were the best. That’s something we could never control. All we could do is be Auburn and play as hard as we could.
Q: Do you think this year’s SEC Championship game winner should be awarded a spot in the national championship?
A: I think so. You have so many ranked opponents in the SEC. We (Auburn) have to fight and go through that each week. The competition is so good, and every week you could lose. You look at how we (Auburn) had a loss against LSU early in the season, and then Alabama comes back and basically comes back and dominates LSU. It’s one of those leagues where you never know. The competition is so heavy that a team that comes out of that conference and wins the way that they won. They beat the No. 1 team in the country … I think without a doubt they should be in the national championship game.
Q: Where were you for the memorable finish of last week’s Iron Bowl?
A: You are going to laugh. My mom, my dad and my youngest brother wanted to go to that game, so I gave them my Auburn tickets. But I was actually at the Georgia-Georgia Tech game with another brother who graduated from Georgia Tech when they won the 1990 national championship. So I went there for him. He wanted somebody to go with him, and my mom really wanted to go to the Auburn game, so I gave her my tickets. So it was funny. I was at Georgia-Georgia Tech, but I was paying attention to Auburn-Alabama on my phone. Everybody around me was screaming at the end.