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A spirit that is not afraid

COLUMN | Why Cadillac matters to me

Auburn interim head coach Cadillac Williams shares a smile after defeating Western Kentucky in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 19, 2022.
Auburn interim head coach Cadillac Williams shares a smile after defeating Western Kentucky in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 19, 2022.

I’ve never been much of a sports girl. Player or watcher.

My brother played football and basketball when I was in middle school and I remember going to exactly one of his games, senior night, and seeing him, my mom and my dad walk out onto the field. He was one of a few Black football players at our small predominantly white high school. 

I was on the yearbook staff my last two years of high school — a small staff of four my junior year so I was at almost every sporting event there was every week, for a year. I wish I could say that turned me into a watcher, but it didn’t.

Even going to an SEC school, becoming editor-in-chief of The Plainsman, and having sports become something that I didn’t have a choice but to pay attention to, didn’t make me an avid watcher.

I had ideas about how each sport worked, I could edit a story if I needed to but it hasn’t ever been something I've paid much attention to.  

And then came Caddy.

I found myself, a senior, for the first time asking my friend to turn on the game as soon as he stepped foot in Jordan-Hare. I was nearly bouncing in anticipation on my friend's couch, grabbing my shoes and lacing them, just in case, while my eyes were glued to the screen. We’d lost that game, but it was the first time I’d got it. 

This isn’t another column telling you Caddy is the man, but make no mistake, Caddy is the man. 

This is just me, the first Black editor-in-chief of The Plainsman, a girl who’s never really cared about sports in her life, telling you just how important it is to me that Carnell “Cadillac” Williams is the first Black interim head coach. 

This is me, telling you, that representation is a hell of a thing. 

I didn’t know how much I needed it until my sports editor texted me and said that Williams had mentioned George Floyd in a press conference, as a trial that the senior football players had to go through during their time at Auburn. 

It’s something that I just can’t imagine another University official mentioning or acknowledging, alongside the pandemic. If they did, it would just be referred to as “the protests in 2020.” Which is what they were, but most Auburn University officials didn’t have to experience being Black in 2020. 

I remember a lot of anger, then. A lot of sadness, and fear. Sneaking out to go to those protests, because I needed to reinforce my right to exist, to be Black in America. And then an abundance of exhaustion. 

They don’t have to experience being Black, every day, at a PWI. That is also exhausting. 

But it means the world to me, to have someone in a position of power that I can relate to, and I can’t imagine how it feels for the football players on the team to have that representation as well. The sports world feels worlds removed from me, but Caddy’s words rippled, and I feel a bit more seen. 

It's hard to be the first of anything. Especially to be the first Black person to do something, but it's important to talk about, to acknowledge that he is the first Black head coach at Auburn. Cadillac is the only Black head football coach in the SEC right now, and up until August 2022 there had only been five Black head coaches in the SEC ever. 

That feels like something that would be a lot of pressure, even if you're not necessarily gunning for a full-time head coaching position. 

He will enter Bryant-Denny Stadium as the first Black man to ever coach in an Iron Bowl. Regardless of where the head coaching job or the program go in the future, Cadillac's name will deservedly go down in the history books.

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As we go into the last game of the season I just want to say, no matter what happens next: history has been made. It's a history that feels like it's come a bit too late, and it's not permanent, but it matters to me. We see you, Cadillac. Thank you for being the first to take up that title and thank you for kicking ass while doing it. 

Destini Ambus | Editor-in-Chief

Destini Ambus, senior in journalism, pursuing a minor in sociology is the editor-in-chief of The Auburn Plainsman.


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