Cadillac Williams: From the 2003 Iron Bowl to now

John Merifield, Contributing Writer

Auburn interim head coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams is far from a stranger to the biggest rivalry in college football. 

Not only has he been a part of the Auburn football program since being hired as their running backs coach in 2019, but he also played four seasons for the Tigers from 2001-2004.  

Does Williams know how to win the big game, and does he have what it takes? He has the experience — just look back to his performance in the 2003 Iron Bowl. 

The Iron Bowl is a huge rivalry no matter the season performance of Alabama and Auburn, but the 2003 Iron Bowl was more of a somber end to the year for both programs. Former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville was rumored to be on the hot seat for most of the season after a 6-5 season before the rivalry match. For Alabama, first-year head coach Mike Shula led the program to a 4-7 record coming into the game behind junior quarterback Brodie Croyle. 

Williams had totaled just five carries in his first two seasons in the storied game. However, in his junior season, the running back put on a career-defining performance against his team’s biggest rival. 

Williams’ first carry of the game resulted in the junior exploding for an 80-yard touchdown run, and that was just the start of Cadillac’s day. He rushed for 204 yards total on 26 carries in the game, tacking on another touchdown to seal the game in the fourth quarter. Auburn put up 519 yards of offense in the game, and Williams accounted for almost half of it just on his own. 

“This is the big day here,” Williams said after the game. “This is the day everybody waits for, one of the best rivalries in the country.” 

That statement stands true today. The Iron Bowl remains as one of the most storied and anticipated rivalries in not only football, but college athletics in general. The disdain that both schools have for each other in 2003 remains in 2022. Both programs know what’s at stake each year — not only bragging rights, but potential postseason hopes as well. 

Although the usual hype may not be present this season, this Iron Bowl presents a unique opportunity to Williams. Since taking over head coaching duties in November, the team and its fan base have seemingly rallied around the energy and charisma that the Auburn legend brings to the program. Although the Tigers have had a disappointing season compared to most of the SEC, Williams has coached the team to a 2-1 record as the interim head coach, with the lone loss being a six-point defeat to the Mississippi State University Bulldogs in his head coaching debut. 

Not only will he have the chance to knock off a struggling Crimson Tide team with virtually no playoff chances, but the opportunity to potentially lock up the open head coaching position that has been a hot topic since the program fired former head coach Bryan Harsin in October. Big names from across the college football landscape have been thrown around, from Deion Sanders of the Jackson State University Tigers to most recently Lane Kiffin of the Ole Miss Rebels. Just this week, reports were made that Kiffin had accepted a deal to become the Tigers’ new head coach, but the claims were disputed by Kiffin himself on social media. 

Williams is faced with a tough task this Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tigers have not won in Tuscaloosa since their improbable comeback led by Cam Newton in 2010. Head coaching rumors continue to circulate. And, even in what is considered a down year, the Crimson Tide still remain one of the best teams in all of college football. But what’s certain is this — it’s the Iron Bowl, and anything can happen. 

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]