Auburn University is one of the most famous institutions for developing athletes, but they have put out tons of great people in other areas, too.
Even though the first names off the top of your head are likely famous Auburn Tigers athletes, there are a bunch of Auburn alumni anyone should be proud to scream War Eagle alongside. From Hall of Fame football and basketball players to the CEO of a Fortune 500 business, or one of the best home run hitters ever to a YouTube personality, there’s one constant: Auburn produces talent.
Famous Auburn Alumni
12. Taylor Hicks
Unless you watched American Idol, there is a chance you don’t know who songwriter Taylor Hicks is, but he was the winner of American Idol’s fifth season. He is originally from Birmingham, Alabama and attended Auburn in the late 1990s while studying business and journalism.
11. Pat Sullivan
He doesn’t get the recognition he probably deserves as the first Heisman Trophy winner in Auburn history, but Sullivan was easily one of the best football players to ever suit up for the Tigers. He didn’t have a great NFL career, but being the first to do anything, especially being named the best player college football for a storied program like Auburn University, it is notable.
Sullivan passed away on December 1, 2019. He was 69.
10. Frank Thomas
Easily one of, if not the best, baseball players in school history, The Big Hurt was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. It was football that brought Frank Thomas to Auburn, receiving a scholarship to play tight end, but he joined the baseball team and became the best player in the Southeastern Conference when he was named the SEC Player of the Year as a senior. He finished his 19-year career in MLB with 521 home runs.
9. Jimmy Wales
You may not know his name, but you definitely know his greatest creation. In 2001, Jimmy Wales became the co-founder of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that is one of the most visited websites today. From that point on, he helped millions of people B-S their way through papers in high school and college.
Wales was born in Huntsville, and actually shares allegiances to both Auburn and the University of Alabama; his bachelor’s degree is from AU, and his Master’s degree is from UA.
8. Meghan McCarthy
Gaining followers on Vine and YouTube, Meghan McCarthy has become pretty famous with over two million followers on YouTube and over 120,000 followers on Twitter. She is an extremely successful screen-writer with her most famous works being the My Little Pony television series.
7. Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer is easily one of the most recognizable actresses with recognition from the Golden Globes, Oscars, and Academy Awards. She got her start in acting just two years after graduating from Auburn as a part of the Class of 1994. Today, she is best known for roles in The Help, Hidden Figures, and Gifted.
6. Lionel Richie
The four-time Grammy Award winner is one of American music’s most popular voices. Born in Tuskegee, Alabama, Richie briefly passed through AU, but he actually graduated from Tuskegee University with an economics degree in 1974. It was at Tuskegee that he met several of the band members that would eventually form The Commodores.
In 2018, Auburn University paid tribute to Richie and pioneering journalist Judy Woodruff as lifetime achievement honorees at the International Quality of Life Awards.
5. Tim Cook
There are few people in the world with a better title than Tim Cook, who is the CEO of Apple Inc.
Cook graduated from Auburn in 1982, and he took the position as the head of Apple in 2011 just a few months before Steve Jobs passed away. He is one of the biggest supporters and boosters of the Auburn Tigers athletics.
4. Cam Newton
Few players in Auburn University history have had the success that Cam Newton had in 2010. The quarterback led the Tigers to an NCAA National Championship while also winning the Heisman Trophy and being picked first overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
He won the 2011 Rookie of the Year Award, then the NFL MVP in 2015, and led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos. He is also known for the wild outfits he has worn to press conferences during his NFL career.
3. Charles Barkley
Few people are as popular today as Sir Charles. Not only as a basketball player, but also as a television personality and sports commentator. I could listen to him commentate any sporting event no matter what it is. During his three seasons at Auburn, “The Round Mound of Rebound” averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game on his way to winning SEC Player of the Year in 1984.
Barkley was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 after averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds over 16 NBA season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, and Houston Rockets. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was an 11-time All-Star and the 1992-93 Most Valuable Player.
2. Jimmy Buffett
Oh yeah. The king of Margaritaville once looked for his lost shaker of salt at Auburn University.
A brief stint at AU found the Sigma Pi pledge struggling in the classroom. (He apparently told an Auburn University crowd in 1979 that he left school with a 0.32 GPA.) It was at one of those fraternity parties, however, that Buffett realized he wanted to be a musician so that he could meet girls.
So thanks, Auburn. Without you, we might have never had Jimmy Buffett.
1. Bo Jackson
I mean, who else would it be?
Bo Jackson won the 1985 Heisman Trophy and is easily one of the best running backs and athletes in sports history. He was a two-time Consensus All-American while playing for head coach Pat Dye.
One of his most famous moments as a pro came in a Los Angeles Raiders uniform when he ran over infamous linebacker Brian Bosworth.
Jackson is known as the ultimate athlete since he was not only able to succeed in the NFL, but also as a professional baseball player. If not for a career-ending hip injury, we might have seen Bo become the a two-sport Hall of Famer. From the iconic “Bo Knows” ad campaign with Nike to being the face of the Tecmo Bowl football video game, there will never be another Bo Jackson.
This article was originally published October 15, 2019.