1958 - 59 Tigers
(Authentic Reproduction)



No one could have predicted a year that rivaled a National Championship but Jordan knew his talented soph linemen would improve. He modified the headgear by taking the white helmet with the distinctive and wider 1.5-inch burnt orange center stripe, 3/4-inch white gap, and 1/2-inch navy blue flanking stripes and added black five-inch medium-rounded numerals to both sides of the helmet for easier player identification. The fans loved the Tiger uniforms! After a 7-7 tie in the fourth game against Georgia Tech, the team proved its mettle by defeating Maryland 20-7 and hanging on against Florida by a 6-5 baseball score. When the year ended, the 9-0-1 record gave them twenty-four games without a loss and a 14-8 defeat of Bryant's first Bama squad. Jordan thought the '58 team was better than his National Champions and more versatile although their year-end finish left them at "only" number four in the nation. They could do more as they proved by leading the SEC in passing offense and total offense with Lloyd Nix at QB, Bobby Lorino at HB, and new FB Ed Dyas. The year marked the Tigers first television appearance in the opening day 13-0 defeat of Tennessee where the Vols where held to minus thirty yards rushing and a total of zero first downs. Again, it was the defense setting the tone for the season. Zeke Smith and Jackie Burkett, as per Jordan's predictions, improved tremendously with both being named to All American teams and Smith winning the Outland Trophy as a junior.        
Auburn's winning streak ended abruptly as Tennessee rose up and made a 3-0 score stand in the opener of 1959. The loss ended not only the streak, but the aggressive mentality of what had been an exceptional defense for three seasons. Not that the '59 defense was poor, pitching three shutouts and a twenty-two point total in four other games but the record included a 10-0 loss to hated Bama and a reversal in the heated rivalry, a slide against the Tide that would go through the 1962 season. QB Bobby Hunt got to direct the attack which featured FB Ed Dyas behind Zeke Smith and Jackie Burkett who were again outstanding in the trenches and they were now joined by Ken Rice, all three making All American and all voted to the first All SEC team. Burkett, like Smith, went to the Colts but his career lasted a full ten years, the last few spent with New Orleans and Dallas as a two-way center and linebacker.

It's rare that on a National Championship team, even one dominated by defense, that an interior lineman is the shining star. During the great run of superlative years enjoyed by Auburn in the late 1950's, there were a number of outstanding linemen playing both ways for a team that would have been to three or four consecutive bowl games, even in the days when there were but four major bowls, if not for their probationary status. Roger Duane "Zeke" Smith was a slow-footed but powerful fullback at tiny Uniontown, AL High School. Most offenses put their biggest and fastest player at fullback and ran him often and Zeke was the star at Uniontown yet went unrecruited by nearby Alabama. Jordan wondered why his rival, just down the road from neighboring Uniontown, wasn't interested in what was supposed to be a decent recruit. Zeke's father and Coach Jordan's father both worked for Southern Railway and after being told of the weekend exploits of his friend's son, he passed the word onto his son Shug. Given one of the final available scholarships, Zeke was immediately moved to the interior line, also a somewhat standard procedure in that era to make the best use of athletic running backs who had potential for growth. The entire Auburn line of 1957 consisted of converted high school fullbacks and Smith went from a back-up frosh center to a redshirt year on the scout team to the starting All Conference guard in the course of two seasons. "I think I was better as a sophomore than as a junior or senior," said Smith, "I was trying harder to make the team." Nicknamed Zeke by his high school coach because of his affection for Georgia quarterback Zeke Bratkowski, Smith was the standout on an exceptional line, especially defensively, and won the Outland Trophy as a junior in '58.  Playing linebacker, defensive end, and offensive guard, Smith lasted six pro years with the Colts, Giants, and Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL in an injury-plagued career but he remains the standard by which all Auburn linemen are measured.

If interested in any of these Auburn helmets please click on the photos below.