Auburn’s starting cornerback has a one-of-kind meal before game days that’s been a long-time tradition since he was just four years old. A home holiday delicacy with an entire personal pot cooked just for Roger McCreary.
Every Friday before he suits up in orange and blue for the Tigers, he treats himself to a southern novelty, and he doesn’t stop at just one plate full, he gets two.
“Baked beans be on my mind,” McCreary said on Wednesday. “So I get a whole plate of them. Not just one plate, but I get about two plates.”
As if a can full of Bush’s isn’t enough on its own, McCreary adds a little extra sweetness at times to spruce up his pre-meal feast.
"That tradition started since my junior season,” McCreary said. “And the craziest part about it is people are like, ‘you put sugar in your beans?' I put like eight packs of sugar in my beans.”
The sugar and bean-loving senior made a decision to stay at Auburn for another football season instead of taking his talent to the NFL last year with an already buffed-up draft stock.
Auburn’s current interception leader could be eating the highest quality beans in the States right now, but he had bigger plans at his alma mater.
McCreary graduated from Auburn with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, with a focus on business, sports coaching and psychology in August of this year, a first-generation graduate in his family.
“The main reason that I decided to come back was [for] my education,” McCreary said when he announced his return to Auburn in January. “That’s what I wanted first. And second, I can always improve my draft stock. So that was another reason, too.”
McCreary believed in himself prior to the start of the season. The thought of returning to school for a player‘s senior year with an already inflated NFL stock has been avoided by draftees and highly ridiculed by analysts.
In doing so, McCreary broke a recent tradition of Auburn corners leaving with high grades in their junior year, as Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis and Noah Igbinoghene all did. All of which have seen significant time on the field this season in the pros.
Now, his return to the Plains may prove to be worthwhile in the long run, as he was ranked the second highest-graded cornerback in the country by PFF on Tuesday.
That was not all that was in store for McCreary on Tuesday, as he was also named as a first-round pick in an early mock draft by ESPN.
“I didn’t even know that,” McCreary said. “That’s my first time hearing about that. That was the reason why me coming back, just to rise up my draft stock. Thank you for telling me about that."
In the weekly press conference, McCreary spoke to the importance of learning zone coverage as a defense under Harsin’s new staff. A new skill that he says is making a difference for him and the other Tigers at the cornerback position.
“Oh yeah, cause last year we were just a whole man team, like man coverage," McCreary said. "We have to learn zone. So I feel it was great, coach [Derek] Mason coming in and teaching us the zone.”
McCreary pointed to the learning curves of a new coverage scheme as a possible reason for Auburn’s vulnerability in the secondary position early in the season. A position group that proved it can maintain four quarters of tight coverage and locked down an explosive Arkansas offense in Auburn’s last time out on the field.
“You can tell that was our problem in the beginning of the season, playing the zone," McCreary said. "Because we didn’t play it that much. So, that’s the progress of our secondary. Learning zone, learning where our help is at. So I feel like with Mason coming and teaching us…I feel like that is great for me for the next level because teams in the NFL play zone, man, everything.”
If the former 3-star recruit can carry his current Top-3 cornerback ranking through the final five games of the regular season, a whole lot of beans could be canned away for McCreary’s future.
“It finally shows all my hard work is paying off.”
McCreary is an honorary captain in Auburn’s upcoming Top-20 matchup versus Ole Miss. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m CST in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
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Larry is a senior studying journalism with a minor in sociology. He is from Enterprise, Alabama and is in his third year with The Auburn Plainsman.