The Norberg family is heading to Pasadena to watch the championship game between Auburn and top-ranked Florida State on Monday.
There’s no doubt about who the family is pulling for. One of them should be watching from the sidelines, the others from the stands.
Wade Norberg, a 2010 graduate of South Tahoe High School, studies economics at Auburn University. As a tight end on its football team, he’s gotten a firsthand look at its wild, storybook ride to the biggest game in college football.
First there was the “miracle win” over Georgia. Trailing by one point, facing 4th-and-18 on his own 27-yard line with about 30 seconds to play, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw a prayer of a pass into triple coverage to receiver Ricardo Louis.
The ball was tipped by a Georgia defender, then juggled and hauled in by Louis, who cruised into the end zone for a game-winning, 73-yard touchdown.
That was followed two weeks later by the team’s last-second win over Southeastern Conference and cross-state rival Alabama.
The teams were tied with one second on the clock. Auburn posted return man Chris Davis in the end zone just in case Alabama’s long-shot, 57-yard field goal attempt happened to fall short. It did fall short. Davis snagged the ball in the end zone and then returned it the length of the field for a game-winning touchdown some sports writers hailed as the most amazing play in college football history.
Norberg’s father, Keith, said he never expected to be a big Auburn fan. That’s OK. His son never expected to attend the school.
A second team Northern 3A tackle for South Tahoe High School, Norberg then played two years of football as a tackle at Santa Barbara City College, where was named first-team All American Pacific Conference.
Norberg planned to transfer to College of Idaho or Fort Lewis College in Colorado.
He was driving to San Diego to visit his brother when his Santa Barbara football coach called and told him he needed to call Auburn — now.
Having been highly recommended by his Santa Barbara coach, Auburn coaches wanted to talk to the 6-foot, 6-inch Norberg about going to school there and maybe playing some football.
At first Norberg thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. He transferred to Auburn within a few weeks as a preferred walk-on.
The redshirt sophomore has been suiting up on Auburn’s scout team and practicing against the first team defense. He practices with the team, trains with the team, goes to all the team meetings and lives with the team in athletic dorms.
It’s been a whirlwind year.
“A year ago he was wondering what he was going to be doing, now he’s on a team playing for the national championship. We’re all excited for him and awful proud of him and he’s pretty excited as well,” Keith Norberg said.
The whole Norberg family has caught the Auburn bug. They’ll all be pulling for the Tigers to upset the undefeated Seminoles.
“I have to tell you, after watching them beat Georgia in the final seconds, and winning in the final seconds of the Alabama game, they’ve had fortune on their side. We can only hope that continues into Monday’s game,” Keith Norberg said.