AUBURN, Ala. (WIAT) — There are so many VIPs that come through both Alabama and Auburn –do you ever find yourself asking: what happened to them?
CBS 42’s Carly Laing talked with a former Auburn player who created a new social community that helps connect you with your favorite players years after their college career ends.
Football fans in Alabama may remember the name Ryan Smith. Smith was a star quarterback at Cordova High School and who help head the team to a state championship in 2007. He went on to play for the Auburn Tigers, fulfilling a life long dream.
“For me, being an Auburn fan and trying to imitate Carnell Williams, who is now the head coach now, and lot of those guys during those times. It was like a dream come true every Saturday and especially for the Iron Bowls,” Smith said.
During his time at Auburn, Smith was lucky enough to play in four Iron Bowls, winning two. One of those wins was the historic “Camback” game.
“I think we were down 21 points at a time. We had 110,000 plus fans screaming at us, against us, and we were able to come back and win that iron bowl game. Which probably will go down as top five, top 10 best college football games ever,” Smith said.
The Tigers went on to win the national title that year. It was a dream of a life time.
“The career I was able to have there and coming in and winning a national championship, playing with cam and the entire crew. It was a dream come true,” Smith said.
Smith spent most of his life under the lights competing against some of the greatest players in the game. But, after graduation, his football career eventually came to an end.
“I lived and ate football. I didn’t ever think about life after the game or life after sports. We have so many athletes that finish the game and quite frankly struggle with the transition into careers. So I’m still a fan and I want to know what’s going on with athletes that come after me,” Smith said.
Smith and a handful of former SEC and HCBU players wanted to keep that athlete-fan connection alive.
“Often they don’t know what we’re doing if we have any businesses, brands that they could support. So it’s more so a way for us to build out a long-term relationship with our fans after the game,” Smith said.
They created a global social community called Rivalry University. It helps fans stay connected to their favorite players years after they hang up their jerseys.
“If you’re traveling through Alabama, if you’re traveling through Georgia, you can come to the platform and find athlete owned restaurants, you can find athlete owned businesses, you can find services that athletes are involved in. And again, it’s just a way to continue that relationship,” Smith said.
So whether you root for Alabama or Auburn, there is a network of former athletes still leaving an impact on communities across the southeast.