TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The clock wound to zeroes, the band swayed and Barrett Jones heard the familiar refrain. The chords came through like wildfire.
Alabama trounced Auburn 49-0 and it was time to sing. The senior center soaked in each word.
We just beat the hell outta you!
Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer
Give 'em hell, Alabama!
Jones had to smile. Alabama lost six straight to Auburn before he signed. Since then, the Crimson Tide are 4-1 against their in-state rivals.
"It was special," Jones said. "It was a great way to go out and something I'll never forget."
Jones, who started his 51st consecutive game on Saturday, was one of nine scholarship seniors to play their final home game against Auburn. Their accomplishments have been astounding: 47 wins, five losses, two national championships.
"To play my last game here against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, it's unreal," linebacker Nico Johnson said. He went out on a high note, forcing a fumble that led to an Alabama touchdown. "Walking down that tunnel, realizing this is my last game that I'm going to walk down this tunnel, it was breathtaking. I just tried to soak in the moment and enjoy it."
Said safety Robert Lester: "This atmosphere, I'm going to miss it."
Defensive end Damion Square said he spoke to his wife about his final home game on Friday night. He didn't know how it would go, how he would feel. With it over, he still doesn't know if it has hit him yet.
"I don't know when it will, but right now I'm OK," he said.
Square and Co. are fine because while the home portion of their careers are over, but the final hurrah has far from arrived. No. 2 Alabama will play No. 3 Georgia in the SEC championship game on Saturday. The winner will likely go to the national title game. There's too much riding on the future to dwell on the present.
"I know they're going to come and play a great game," Square said of Georgia. "What's on the line for us is on the line for them."
Senior leaders like Square, Johnson and tight end Michael Williams have their legacies to consider. They're the fourth-smallest senior class in the country and yet they're battling for their third national championship.
If Alabama ends the season hoisting the crystal football, the 2008 signing class could fulfill it's billing as the best ever. It was Saban's first full year recruiting and he remembers scouting prospects such as Dont'a Hightower and thinking they would become something special. Hightower ended up a first-round NFL draft pick. Overall, Saban said it's the best class he has ever assembled.
"None of us knew it coming in, but we all came in with the same attitude of winning and changing the culture around this place," Williams said. "And we did that. Some of them are already reaping the benefits of it and we're trying to get to the same place they are at. So overall it's a great class and we're trying to finish it up for the fifth-year people that's left."