AUBURN, Al (WRBL) – News of legendary quarterback Pat Sullivan’s passing spread through the Auburn family on Sunday.
Sullivan died at 69-years-old in his sleep on Saturday night.
The sad news came hours after a dramatic 48-45 Auburn victory over rival Alabama. Two men who played alongside Sullivan remembered the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner as a fierce competitor, great friend and tremendous teammate.
One of those was Roger Mitchell, an undersized defensive back from Eufaula.
“Let me tell you what kind of teammate he was,” Mitchell said. “We had beaten Georgia in a game where he had locked up the Heisman.”
Auburn won 35-20, but Mitchell, a walkon at the time, played a critical role. The Bulldogs scored and were about to tie the game at 21 when Mitchell blocked the extra-point attempt.
“We were practicing the next week and he was getting ready to go to New York for the Heisman announcement,” Mitchell said. “We were in our stretches when I saw him get up and walked over my way.”
Sullivan approached Mitchell, patted him on the butt.
“He came over there to just to tell me it was a hell of play,” Mitchell said. “That’s who Pat Sullivan was.”
Columbus attorney Sammy Oates had not yet heard of Sullivan’s passing as he was driving home from Florida on Sunday. Oates, like Sullivan, signed with Auburn out of high school in 1968. Sullivan was from Birmingham and Oates was a Columbus High School star.
“We were friends from the start,” Oates said. “And we lined up almost immediately as the No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks. And it was pretty obvious it wasn’t going to change.”
Oates moved to the defensive secondary after his sophomore season.
Back then-freshman did not play varsity football and Sullivan and his receiving counterpart, Terry Beasley, led the Tigers to a come-from-behind freshman team win over Alabama.
Oates said it was obvious from the start Sullivan was gifted.
“Right from the start, you knew Pat was a unique athlete,” Oates said. “He was smart and he quickly was able to figure out SEC defenses. He got up to speed in the SEC about as quick as you could.”
Mitchell remembers a 10-9 win at Tennessee Sullivan’s senior season.
“He didn’t play well on that field,” Mitchell said. “It had a huge crown, the slope from midfield to the sidelines. His passes were off.”
The Tigers were down 6-0 at the half.
“Pat came over to the defensive guys and said, ‘Just give me one more stop and we are going to win this game,” MItchell said. “None of us in that locker room that day ever doubted him.”
Mitchell saw Sullivan a couple of months ago in Birmingham.
“He wasn’t doing well, but some of us got to spend some time with him and tell him just how much he meant to us,” Mitchell said. “Pat Sullivan was what it was all about to be an Auburn man.”
In the years after Sullivan, Auburn had two more Heisman Trophy winners, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton.
“Because I played with him and I saw it every single day, ‘Super Sully’ will always be the GOAT to me,” Mitchell said. “He didn’t like for us to call him ‘Super Sully, but that’s what he was.”
Mitchell and Oates are not sure if Sullivan knew of Auburn’s win over Alabama Saturday night, but they both hope he had some idea. Sullivan beat Alabama three out of four tries, the only loss coming after he won the Heisman Trophy.
“I sure hope he got to experience that one last pleasure,” Oates said.