Alabama-Auburn It’s Only a Game


Greg Gantt

Alabama-Auburn, 1972

Alabama ahead 16-3

Auburn hadn’t moved the ball

The whole game.

Late in the game

Greg drops into punt formation.

Bill Newton comes up the middle

And blocks the punt.

The ball bounces into David Langner’s hands.

He scores a touchdown.

Alabama 16-10.

Next Alabama possession.

There are still holes

In the middle of Alabama’s line

Greg drops into punt formation.

Bill Newton comes up the middle

And blocks the punt.

The ball bounces into David Langner’s hands.

He scores another touchdown.

Almost identical plays.

Auburn 17-16. Game over.

1973 Greg leads nation in punting.

Nobody remembers.

There’s a new face on campus.

It’s our son who will inherit Greg’s job.

They talk a lot, the 1972 game and others.

Greg’s one of the nicest you’d ever meet.

Taught our son what to do in severe adversity.

Our son was always thankful for that.

For a similar situation developed in 1974.

Alabama-Auburn, about 2 and a 1/2 minutes left.

Alabama ahead 17-13.

Ball on Alabama’s 23-yard line.

A blocked punt and Auburn wins.

Fourth down, our son trots onto the field.

The punter’s in charge in the huddle.

Those from the 1972 team nervous.

Others grumbling, a loud huddle.

Finally our son has had enough

“Shut the hell up,” he stares at everybody.

He looks at his snapper.

“Get the ball back here, and it’s gone.”

Must have been one of the 1972 guys.

“It ain’t that easy.”

Our son again to his snapper.

“Get the ball back here, no drift left or right.”

The huddle broke, our son was on

Alabama’s 8-yard line.

The ball comes back straight as an arrow.

It barely touches his hands, and it’s gone.

Alabama had shored up the middle of the line.

Nobody broke through.

The designated Auburn punt blocker

Came around Alabama’s left side

And was in Alabama’s backfield.

From the other sidelines, a photog

Takes a picture of the startled

Expression on the Auburn guy’s face.

The ball’s gone.

It can’t be gone.

I’m here to block it.

The ball’s gone.

The ball can’t be gone.

It wasn’t a good punt.

A couple of reasons.

When the punter gets the ball.

He shifts the ball to

The best position to punt it.

Our son didn’t do that.

That saved a second.

The punter spins the strings away

So he won’t hit them with his foot.

Our son didn’t do that.

That saved a half a second.

The ball’s gone.

And the Auburn guy still can’t believe it.

It wasn’t a good punt.

But no matter.

Auburn fumbled on the first play from scrimmage.

Alabama recovered the fumble. Game over.

Alabama wins 17-13.

Down through the years our son

Saw Greg, and they would talk.

The 1972 game and others.

Strange how a few minutes creates a legend

One can never escape.

And a few minutes with another player

In another game doesn’t.

Greg told our son that regardless of

Where he went, and who he met,

“Greg Gantt. That Greg Gantt?”

The rest of his life.

You’d think that when Greg died

In 2011 at the age of 59.

It would have gone to the grave with him.

Not so.

Sometimes before the national TV game

Every year between Alabama and Auburn

They’ll replay it.

Excruciating for Alabama, delightful for Auburn.

But our son sits there and thinks of Greg.

And of something that shouldn’t have been

For a nice guy.

Odd how life hands out things to you.

Some good, some bad.

But Greg was our son’s friend,

Would always be our son’s friend.

And maybe that’s what matters the most.

For football is only a game

Isn’t it?



Add comment