The SEC Network on Thursday night featured the 1980s Auburn athletic trio of Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley and Frank Thomas. Barkley was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, and Thomas was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this summer.
Former Auburn football coach Pat Dye, who recruited Jackson and Thomas, was a guest Thursday afternoon on "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 The Zone.
Q: Had Frank Thomas stayed with football, how good could he have been?
A: "He would have been All-Pro. There has never been a better tight end prospect than Frank. He was 6-4 and 250 with great hand-eye coordination. He had no fear, and he could run a 4.6 [40-yard dash]. He was just a great, great athlete."
Q: What kind of football player could Barkley have been?
A: "I ate lunch with Charles every day at Sewell Hall, and I stayed on him all the time about coming out for football. He would say, 'You're crazy. You play too rough for me.' He was just kidding, because he could have been a great tight end or defensive lineman or whatever he wanted to be.
"He stuck with the right thing, too, and all three ended up where they needed to be. Bo's career was cut short by an injury, but I don't know if he could have been any better in football had he not played baseball. He obviously would have been a better baseball player had he not played football."
Q: Auburn was successful with the wishbone during your early years. How much fun was it watching Auburn lead the nation in rushing last season under Gus Malzahn?
A: "It was a lot of fun. They were just running a glorified wishbone. They spread folks out all over the field and make them cover the field horizontally and then make them cover vertically, and you can't play but just six people in the box.
"I'm glad I don't coach defense today. You don't have time to get lined up, and it's a fascinating thing to watch. Coach Malzahn is the one who started this, and the rest of them are catching him."
Q: Was your favorite Iron Bowl in 1989, when Alabama came to Auburn for the first time?
A: "The one that stands out to me is '82 in Birmingham when we hadn't won in nine years. The one in '82 and the one in '89 had different significance. The historical part of the '89 game made it big, but it wasn't any more important for us to beat Alabama in '89 than it was in '82.
"They were both great football games that were very important to our program."
Q: Have you had a chance to watch the SEC Network special?
A: "No, I haven't. You know, they come and film you for 30 minutes and wind up using 30 seconds of it. It's a great tribute to all three of them, and they're all three great guys. They come back to Auburn and do a lot for our programs.
"They meant so much to Auburn when they were here, and they continue to mean so much to Auburn. They are three guys who are as good as you can get in the three sports that they represented."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...