WESTHOUGHTON, ENGLAND (WRBL) – Nestled amid the enchanting landscapes of Northwest England, not far from the lively city of Manchester, we find a character as extraordinary as the tale he weaves. Meet Paul Mortimer, a 48-year-old tech engineer during the week and a local rockstar on the weekends. But what sets this husband and father of three apart is his unwavering devotion to “American Football” – specifically the Auburn University Tigers in Alabama.
Mortimer’s arms are adorned with Auburn tattoos, each one a symbol of his passion – from the iconic AU logo and the grandeur of Samford Hall to tributes to Auburn legends like Tre Mason and Cam Newton. Even his four-legged companion is named “Gus,” a nod to none other than Coach Malzahn himself. Step into his truck or his home, and you’ll be immersed in a world drenched in vibrant shades of orange and blue, a testament to his fervent dedication.
Mortimer’s decade-long love affair with Auburn began in 2013, sparked by his affinity for country music.
“Ten years ago, there wasn’t much country music in this country. I wanted to listen to an actual radio station, not just stream it. I craved the experience of hearing DJs play songs and commercials. That’s when I stumbled upon ‘BAMA Country’ in Montgomery, Alabama,” Mortimer explained.
This serendipitous discovery led him down a path of American football and, more specifically, into the heart of the Auburn University family. While tuning in, Mortimer noticed that the DJs often shared football scores, and his favorite DJ was a passionate Auburn fan.
“One day, by pure chance, they were airing an Auburn vs. Alabama game on TV here. That was my introduction to the Iron Bowl in 2013,” Mortimer recalled.
His first game happened to be the legendary Kick Six by Auburn’s Chris Davis, securing a monumental victory over arch-rivals Alabama. In just one electrifying second, Mortimer’s loyalty was forever sealed. He joined Auburn social media groups, even creating his own British Auburn Fan‘s page, where he began sharing his AU Game Day Meme. Word spread, and Auburn fans from around the world flocked to his page, sending him care packages and Auburn memorabilia. The Auburn family welcomed Mortimer with open arms, and over the next ten years, they forged lasting friendships and a desire to meet in person. However, life threw a few fumbles his way, making the recovery to visit Alabama challenging. The COVID-19 pandemic halted his plans, and then he faced the devastating loss of his father to the virus. Subsequently, his wife suffered a back injury. Despite these hardships, she encouraged him to proceed with his pilgrimage to the Plains.
“She said I can’t come with you, but I don’t want to stop you,” he said.
As the 2023 Iron Bowl approaches, Paul’s dream of visiting Auburn is becoming a reality. He’s booked a ten-day trip, eagerly awaited by his Auburn family.
“The Auburn family would do anything for anyone. They’ve offered me a place to stay, will show me around, and have even surprised me with a ticket to the game, which is just amazing. I could never repay my friend for it,” Mortimer expressed.
As Mortimer counts down the days to November 25th, when he’ll be at the Auburn vs. Alabama game, he’s not just thrilled about experiencing the football magic but also eagerly anticipates meeting the people who have shown him immense kindness from across the ocean.
“You know, I think it’s the people I’m looking forward to the most. I want to attend the game, be in the stadium, visit Toomer’s Corner, get some lemonade, witness the War Eagle walk, and so much more. It’s all on my list, but meeting these people I’ve connected with online, who’ve shown me so much kindness, is the most important thing,” Mortimer shared.
Mortimer’s journey stands as proof that Auburn’s reach extends far beyond the borders of Alabama and the United States. His story epitomizes the unifying power of sports. Paul Mortimer, the biggest Auburn fan in England, may live halfway across the world, but his heart beats in harmony with the Auburn family, and his journey embodies the enduring enchantment of the Iron Bowl.