A tribute to Rod and Paula
AUBURN | When Rod Bramblett stepped into the radio booth at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Aug. 30, 2003, he was stepping into the shoes of a legend.
Fifteen years, eight months and 25 days later, he departs this earth as a legend in his own right. His voice forever connected to some of the greatest plays and moments in Auburn history.
But on that hot August day, one in which Auburn didn’t play very well, Rod just wanted one thing — to make the late Jim Fyffe proud.
Fyffe had passed away unexpectedly that May after serving as the voice of the Auburn Tigers the previous 21 years. His Touchdown Auburn call was a powerful symbol of the football program’s rise during the 1980’s under Pat Dye and into the start of the Tommy Tuberville era.
Bramblett struggled whether or not to keep the Touchdown Auburn call or come up with his own signature. He had to wait another couple of weeks before Auburn would score a touchdown, but he began by honoring Fyffe with a Touchdown Auburn once per game and using another call for the other scores.
Eventually though, it just became Touchdown Auburn every time because it turns out the call didn’t belong to Fyffe or Rod, it belonged to Auburn. And by the end of 2003, Rod already had one of his greatest broadcasting moments, the Go Crazy Cadillac call on the opening play of the Iron Bowl.
As a professional broadcaster, Rod was very much like his mentor, Fyffe, in being able to capture the emotion of the most pivotal moments of a game. His pitch would rise or fall, his voice crack, the pace of his words adjusting to covey what was happening on the field and why it was important. You can feel it when you close your eyes and listen to his calls of the 2010 comeback at Bryant-Denny, the 2010 national championship, the Prayer at Jordan-Hare in 2013 and the iconic and career-defining Kick Six just two weeks later.
It was the same in baseball and basketball. Rod was a natural. He found his calling, he loved his job, loved Auburn and Auburn fans adored him. He was Auburn, just like Fyffe decades before.
But it’s not Rod’s calls that I will remember most. It’s Rod. Rod and his wife, Paula, who both passed away May 25, 2019 in a tragic automobile accident. They were the definition of good Auburn people.
I’ll remember what an honor it was when I went on the road to cover Auburn and got to spend time with Rod, his broadcast partner, Andy Burcham, and the Auburn Network crew, who always know the best places to eat in every college town.
I’m thinking about Andy right now and how difficult this must be for him losing his best bud and traveling companion. Those two had stories, so many great stories from so many road trips.
I’m also thinking about Rod and Paula’s two children, the youngest, Joshua, who was in kindergarten with my youngest. The oldest, Shelby, who is following in her parent’s footsteps as an Auburn University student.
I’ll remember running into Rod and Paula around town or at a restaurant, always together, always looking like the two happiest people in the room. It was serendipity, of course, but it seems like every time my wife and I went to Chicken Salad Chick, there would be Rod and Paula sitting in a booth. They’d look over and smile, we’d all shake our heads and go, ‘Here we are again.’
I’ll still look for them in that booth whenever I walk into CSC now.
CBS42’s Simone Eli shared one of her moments with Rod Saturday night on Twitter. She had interviewed him last year about his favorite Iron Bowl calls and as they walked outside, there was Paula waiting for a lunch date. Simone watched as the pair walked away hand in hand.
That love they had for each other was so powerful it affected everyone around them. It was infectious. As husband and wife, father and mother, they set a sincere example to us all without even knowing it. It just came natural. It was just Rod and Paula.
As sad and tragic as their deaths were, and as much as it still hurts today, there’s something peaceful about them being together still, holding hands in death as they were in life.