War Eagle! Go Tigers! Beat Bama! These are the things often heard the moment you step onto Auburn University’s campus.
Supporters of the Tigers know how interconnected the fanbase is. Alumni know it even more. But the link between the fans and football is not the only thing that makes Auburn special. The Loveliest Village on the Plains is comprised of a family – The Auburn Family – that stretches nationwide and across the world.
Whether it’s rolling the historic oak trees, relaxing on the picturesque Samford Lawn or the smell of freshly made popcorn in Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn is ingrained into the hearts and minds of those who love it. For the eight former Auburn players on Gus Malzahn’s staff, the story is no different.
During their time at Auburn, these players were perhaps the most beloved members of the Auburn Family. However, it is often thought that once an athlete’s four years are finished, they either pursue a professional career or move into the workforce – effectively forfeiting their value to the schools, fans and the media. But Auburn is a family; no one ever really leaves Auburn; no one is ever truly forgotten. The Auburn Family is robustly evident in so many ways, but this one in particular is unique. Most of these guys played for Malzahn, and I cannot stress enough how the Gus Bus would fail to roll without them. What did they do for Auburn in the past? What are they doing now to strengthen the Tigers in the future? Here is a breakdown of what these eight former players turned current coaches really mean to the Auburn Family.
Kodi Burns – Co-Offensive Coordinator/WRs: In 2007, Burns became the first freshman to start at quarterback for Auburn since Gabe Gross in 1998. He later switched to wide receiver and his greatest achievement had to be his opening touchdown grab against Oregon in the 2010 BCS National Championship game. Burns began his coaching tenure at Auburn as a graduate student, working with the 2013 offense that finished first nationally in rushing. After two years away, the former quarterback turned wide receiver returned to his alma mater in 2016. Since then Burns has been one of Auburn’s most valuable recruiters and one of Malzahn’s most trusted advisors.
Rodney Gardner – Assoc. Head Coach/DL: Gardner was an All-SEC player during his Auburn heyday. He also captained the 1988 team that captured the SEC title. He spent his first five years, 1990-1995, coaching for Auburn before climbing the ladder at other universities. Gardner returned to Auburn in 2013 as associate head coach and defensive line coach. He has held the position ever since and has helped Auburn transition into the defensive powerhouse it is today.
Carnell “Cadillac” Williams – Assistant Coach/RB: With by far the most impressive playing resume of anyone on this list, Williams is the least experienced, and newest, member on the coaching staff. The All-American helped Auburn to an undefeated 2004 season and was the 2005 NFL Rookie of the Year. Williams finished ahead of Bo Jackson as Auburn’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns and second to the Heisman winner in total rushing yards. The seven-year pro returned to Auburn in 2019 and provides mentorship to Auburn’s runners, and a good bit of street cred to the coaching staff.
Travis Williams – Co-Defensive Coordinator/LBs: Like Cadillac, Williams was a crucial piece in Auburn’s 2004 undefeated season. He led the team in tackles (84) and earned All-SEC honors on the Tigers’ way to a Sugar Bowl win. Williams had a brief stint in the NFL then as a high school coach before returning to his alma mater in 2009 as a graduate assistant. He left again, but could not stay away, returning to Auburn as a defensive analyst in 2014. Since then he has risen in the coaching ranks among Malzahn’s staff, becoming a key recruiter and developer of talent. He even dropped an epic remixed rap song, name checking and hyping up the Auburn players.
Jorrell Bostrom – Director of Player Development: The first Auburn player of Tongan heritage, Bostrom played in every game on the offensive line, punt, field goal and PAT units in 2009 and 2010. He was on the field when Wes Byrum kicked the game-winning field goal in the 2010 BCS National Championship game. From there, he spent three seasons with Auburn as an administrative assistant. He then joined Malzahn’s staff in 2014 as assistant director of player development before being promoted to director in 2015 – a position he has held ever since.
Kenny Carter – Assistant Director of Player Development: As a player, Carter was a member of the 2010 championship team and a key member of the team that reached the championship game in 2013. He joined Malzahn’s staff in 2015. Fun fact: his brother is former Auburn player and 2020 second round pick, Marlon Davidson.
Josh Holsey – Defensive Grad Assistant: Holsey was a versatile cornerback/safety hybrid who made 31 starts for the Tigers between 2012-16. He led Auburn’s defense with three interceptions in 2016 and was drafted in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL draft. Holsey joined Malzahn’s staff this past spring and begins his first full year this season.
Barrett Trotter – Offensive Analyst: After backing up Cam Newton in 2010, Trotter became the Tigers’ starter in 2011 and led the team to a bowl victory over Virginia. He spent four years in the NFL serving as a scouting and coaching assistant before joining North Carolina as an offensive assistant in 2017. He joined Malzahn’s staff as an offensive analyst in 2018.