PERHAPS IT'S BEST THAT TERRY BOWDEN didn't know. Perhaps it's best
that Auburn's rookie, workaholic coach didn't realize that three of
his best players spent their Wednesday afternoons this autumn playing
touch football in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Or that special teams film
sessions often devolved into sports-blooper film festivals. Or that
during the warmup drills at Sanford Stadium before last month's
Georgia contest, placekicker Scott Etheridge was attempting punts
while long snapper Brian Brinsfield and punter Terry Daniel engaged
in a spirited field goal duel.
''But that's just it,'' says Brinsfield. ''Everything is perfect
in the games because we're so loose.''
A perfect world? Etheridge, Daniel and Brinsfield, former walk-ons
all, admit that it will be years before they realize just how utopian
their Auburn careers have been. Where to begin?
''Let's talk about never having had a kick blocked,'' offers
Etheridge, a senior from Valencia, Calif., who finished his career on
the Plains an untarnished 65 of 65 on PATs. He also became the
school's alltime field goal accuracy leader, having hit 79% of his
''Let's talk about never having had a punt blocked,'' says junior
Daniel from nearby Valley, whose lighter-than-air kicks (or so it
seemed) yielded him the second-best average in the nation this year
(46.9 yards) along with a first-team AP All-America spot.
''Let's talk about never having had a bad snap,'' says Brinsfield,
a Spanish Fort native and also a junior, who in 33 games has yet to
deliver anything but a bull's-eye. ''I can't get an award. There's
not an All-America long snapper.''
Etheridge and Daniel nod in agreement. NFL scouts have told
Brinsfield that he is the best long snapper in the nation, college or
pro. ''Not to mention,'' says Etheridge, who has gazed at it before
every one of his kicks, ''having the best butt in college football.''
Tight butts, tight friends, but vastly different in personality.
''I'm the preacher,'' says Brinsfield, who on this evening has just
arrived at Denaro's, a local Auburn watering hole, from a 90-minute
Bible study. ''Terry's the country boy. And Scott, well, Scott is
Eddie Haskell.'' To this, Etheridge, whose ''Beautiful day, Mrs.
Cleaver'' visage belies his sharp wit, pleads guilty. No matter what
shape your derriere is in, say Brinsfield and Daniel, you'll
eventually be the butt of an Etheridge wisecrack.
Daniel, for example, made headlines this season when it was
alleged -- reportedly by Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill --
that his booming punts were aided by helium-inflated footballs.
''Terry's punts are all the product of his giant butt,'' says
Etheridge, who seems to have a proclivity for assessing this part of
the male anatomy. ''Besides, as my dad said, 'Terry doesn't even know
what helium is. He thinks it's a town in Alabama.' ''
Brinsfield, the true all-American boy of the group, has displayed
good humor throughout his time at Auburn. ''After my very first day
of practice here, I was so nervous,'' he recalls. ''But then we were
back in ((quarterback)) Patrick Nix's room, watching ((then coach))
Pat Dye on TV. Dye said, 'The only person who really impressed me
today at practice was Brian Brainsworth.' '' The nickname stuck.
All kidding aside, or -- as will forever be the case with
Etheridge as far as Brinsfield and Daniel are concerned -- in
arrears, the three young men have never taken their roles nor their
friendships for granted. ''One fan approached me after a game and
said, 'You guys take all of the guesswork out of the kicking game,'
'' Etheridge recalls. ''I agree. I know that I have never been
associated with two finer guys, with two guys who do their jobs
better, in my entire life.''