It was over 40 years ago. The Auburn Tigers, 16-point underdogs to the Crimson Tide at Legion field trailed 16-3 with less than six minutes remaining in the Iron Bowl. But an amazin' thing happened not once, but twice. As Bama's Greg Gantt dropped back to punt, Auburn's Bill Newton suddenly blocked Gantt's punt- and there to scoop up the ball was Birmingham native David Langner. The Auburn defensive back shocked the crowd as he scored a touchdown. The crowd really went off when moments later, Newton blocked another Gantt punt, and the modest Langner was in the right spot again. Langner's ensuing score would give the Auburn Tigers an improbable 17-16 win in the Iron Bowl that would forever be named "Punt Bama Punt".
David Langner died on Saturday morning after a valiant battle with cancer. Langner had retired from a Tuscaloosa auto dealership business just a few months ago. Said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn via a statement, "I am saddened by the passing of David Langner, who was not only an Auburn legend but a great man. On behalf of the entire Auburn football program, our thoughts and prayers are with David's family and friends."
Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs echoed Malzahn's sentiments, saying, "David Langner was one of Auburn's greats who will be remembered for generations to come. He was a fierce competitor who fought cancer as hard as he fought any opponent he faced. I know the entire Auburn family joins me in offering our sympathy and prayers to his family."
Before the "Return To Glory" by Chris Davis came "Punt Bama Punt". Ironically, both Langner and Davis grew up in Birmingham and attended Woodlawn High School. Regardless of which side of the Alabama-Auburn fence you stand, the Iron Bowl is the greatest rivalry in sports. David Langner, to the thrill of Auburn fans and the disdain of the Alabama nation, will forever be linked to the rivalry.
Over the years I have come to know David as a humble, caring man. He has joined us on Fox6 numerous times to talk about the 1972 Iron Bowl- in fact he even joined Greg Gantt, the Bama punter involved in the game, for a sitdown interview years ago to talk about those two memorable plays. I found the give and take between Gantt and Langner amazing. I have also visited Langner at his dealership in Tuscaloosa, where I enjoyed reminiscing.
Thoughts and prayers to the Langner family certainly come from the Fox6 family, as an Iron Bowl legend, and more importantly, a good man, will be missed.
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