By J. Henderson
When Jeff Fuller sits down at his desk and prioritizes his day, the fact that he’s been kept from making it back for a game since the 2003 season-opening humbling by USC is surely in the back of his mind and surely factors into his decision to pour so much time and energy into what he does, what thousands upon thousands know him for. And for someone so obviously passionate to be more than a thousand miles away from Jordan-Hare Stadium, you can understand the man wanting to feel as close to the action as he can, whatever way he can. And if that’s what makes him so good at it, then no, you don’t need to feel too guilty for hoping he might not be able to make it back for a lot longer.
Because where would Auburn fans be right now without Jeff Fuller, the man who has so improved our peculiar quality of life?
Indeed, is it not simply easier to be an Auburn fan these days?
Yes, 2004 is still paying dividends, and yes, six in a row is a special sort of ecstasy. And I’m not saying that, without Jeff, our recent on-the-field success wouldn’t be buying us more limelight than ever before, more bragging rights – these privileges are gifts from the players, the coaches and the good Lord. We know that.
When I say it’s so much easier being an Auburn fan these days, I’m simply saying that the modes of modern fandom have become so much more accessible in recent years, so much more interactive, and so aggressively populist, that it is easy to forget that only a few years ago we were all forced to clank through our movie closets for five minutes or more before finding the AttiTude tape from ’93, and by then, it might be time for dinner.
I mean it’s easier. Literally.
We no longer have to wait until Christmas for the powers that be to sell us our chance to relive an Iron Bowl or even a great play from the first game of the season. (Christmas? We want it Sunday night, Jeff, and you better deliver!)
We don’t have to cop tingles outside the A/V lab, hoping someone will bootleg us a high-light reel (I’m sure this has happened). We have taken matters into our own hands and then handed them to Jeff. It’s called the Internet. More specifically, YouTube, and Jeff doesn’t think it has changed just college football, he thinks YouTube has changed the world.
“It is pretty amazing to think you can publish your work of art to millions of people,” he says.
If your definition of art includes manipulated clips of televised Auburn gridiron drama set to stirring movie trailer music – and it should – then that, is exactly what Jeff has done since he uploaded his first video in September 2006, and he does it better than most.
So thank you Jeff Fuller, thank you so very much!
Known to his YouTube audience only as autiger96, Jeff Fuller graduated from Auburn – yes, in 1996, and his pedigree is solid.
He is the son of an Auburn man – Donnie Fuller, an Auburn track star, class of ’70, who, Jeff says, held the world-record in the 70-yard dash for nearly an hour. Two of his uncles, Terry (’79) and Mike (’75), both played football for Auburn in the 70s. Terry was pretty good. Mike was good enough to get his face on the side of the stadium. And a coke can.
Jeff’s uncle Mike, dead center – stadium mural by Michael Taylor, photo by C. Bridges.
In the 1973 Georgia game Mike returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, the third longest kickoff return in Auburn history at that time, and led the nation in punt returns going into that year’s Iron Bowl. He finished the regular season second in the nation, missing the top slot with a per-carry average just 1/10th of a yard less than Penn State’s Gary Hayman. (Hayman had 23 returns for 422 yards, Fuller had 20 for 381). Mike owns the Tiger’s share of the Auburn record book where punting is concerned, including most punts returned for touchdowns in a game (tied with David Langner at 2), a season and a career. Against Chattanooga in ’74, he returned only three punts for 173 yards. He was named to Football News All-American Team his senior season and went on to split 8 seasons in the NFL between the San Diego Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jeff left the Plains with an engineering degree and currently lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife Dawn, his two sons Jacob (6) and Gabe (5), and 18 month old daughter, Elizabeth. He has no formal training in video editing. He has none in marketing, nor does he have any related professional aspirations, something his fans find hard to believe, his friends too for that matter.
He tells the story of reuniting with some old Auburn friends while recently vacationing back in Alabama:
“My friend said, ‘I’ve got to show you this video I found on YouTube.’ I said, ‘Dude, A96 is me.’”
In fact, besides gratuitous gratitude (often coming from soldiers stationed in Iraq unable to watch the games), dismay at his not wanting to “take this thing international, baby” is the major theme to the comments left for his videos. “You Should Do This For A Living!”
It’s just that his executive management position with one of the world’s leading automotive suppliers for Ford Moto Company’s Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX pays pretty good, and besides, he says, “if I really want to get to the next level, I need to purchase a Mac.”
“I do this and will continue to do it because I don’t want to wait for ESPN Classic or a DVD to come out to relive the games,” Fuller said. “Ten years from now, I hope to have created a time capsule for each season. I enjoy watching highlights of the game just like everyone else. I want Auburn fans to enjoy the games over and over and to have them at their fingertips or on their hard drive free of charge.”
For Jeff, it’s just a hobby. As for the reasons, he simply digs Auburn; he loves it and can’t get enough.
Neither can the growing number of Auburn fans whose souls he helps stir nor the fellow tingle-jockeys who credit his influence in the notes to their own montages – his videos, says Fuller, have collectively been viewed nearly 1 million times, the 2006 Iron Bowl video (subtitled “Five”) being the most popular with nearly 74,000 YouTube views (the incredible video of the 2006 Florida game comes in second with 68,111 views. 68,112, 68,113…). “That’s not my best,” said Fuller, “but it’s the most popular.”
In addition, the website www.sportssheila.com, which hosts full-sized versions of various Auburn-themed videos, reports that Fuller’s have been downloaded over 300,000 times.
Auburn team chaplain Chette Williams even recently contacted Fuller to request a DVD of some of his art to play at a Tommy Tuberville fundraiser.
And why wouldn’t he? They’re impeccably crafted and inspiring as hell. Watching the live broadcast of Brad Lester dragging half the Bama team through the final seconds of Auburn’s 6th Iron Bowl victory in a row made grown men high five and beat their chests. Watching a replay of Brad Lester dragging half the Bama team through the final seconds of the 6th Iron Bowl victory in a row, if it’s set to a beautiful blend of a spectacular River Dance crescendo and the ESPN play-by-play, will make grown men cry.
But if you’ve ever wondered … this is how Pollock slings the paint, how Disney draws the ears, how Jeff Fuller, YouTube’s autiger96, delivers the goods, in his own words:
“I started getting into editing in St. Louis. I had a friend that ran a small film company; I helped him from time to time. So with that experience plus my engineering background, the 3D modeling, which I do with some of the graphics in my videos, comes naturally. The most important component [to my videos] is the music. That I’m probably one the few people that can tell you the composer for most of the movie trailers I see drives my wife crazy. So this hobby actually makes good sense: the passion for music, the passion for Auburn football, and the passion for 3D modeling.”
Where the magic happens…
“In terms of time for each video, it really depends on the game. Let’s assume I have the music selected; I’ll spend some time setting up the beginning graphics, about four hours. After the game, assuming we win (except for LSU in 2005 – I did that video because we should have won. 5 missed field goals, come on!), I select the plays I want from my DVR’ed game data, rip them to my hard drive and then spend about three hours editing. The first game took five times that. The demand of the internet is such that people expect it to be out Sunday night, and no one else does that. So the prep work is the key. If we lose, the prep work gets applied to the next big game we win.”
Thanks to Jeff Fuller, those big games stay just a click away.