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Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011

Auburn football: Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker leaves for NFL's Tennessee Titans

First assistant on Chizik’s staff to depart

- abitter@ledger-enquirer.com
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AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn defensive line coach Tracy Rocker was hired for the same position with the Tennessee Titans on Wednesday, marking the first change to Gene Chizik’s coaching staff in his two-plus with the Tigers.

Rocker, 44, was hired by new Titans head coach Mike Munchak to replace Jim Washburn, who left the team after 12 years to join the Philadelphia Eagles.

“The last two years have been an unbelievable experience with the opportunity to coach at my alma mater and help the program win a national championship,” Rocker said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to coach in the NFL, and this is a tremendous opportunity that I could not pass up.”

Chizik hired Rocker in January 2008, a month after taking the Auburn head coaching job.

In two years with the Tigers, Rocker coached Antonio Coleman, a first-team All-SEC pick who led the league in sacks and tackles for a loss, and Nick Fairley, who blossomed under his tutelage, winning the Lombardi Award this season and being named a consensus All-American. Fairley has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft April 28-30.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was pursued as a head coach by several schools this offseason, including Vanderbilt and Maryland, but received a raise to $1.3 million to stay with the Tigers. Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes interviewed with Texas last month but decided to stay in Auburn.

“We certainly hate to see Tracy leave, but this was an opportunity for him to pursue one of his professional goals,” Chizik said. “We’re very appreciative of what he meant to Auburn both as a player and a coach, and we wish Tracy and his family nothing but the best in his new role with the Tennessee Titans.”

Rocker was reportedly high on Jeff Fisher’s wish list before the coach parted ways with the franchise after 17 years. Fisher’s replacement, Munchak, said on WJOX radio Wednesday morning that he had a high opinion of Rocker.

“Obviously, he’s done a great job as a player, and now he’s worked his way up through the ranks in coaching, and he’s coming off a national championship at Auburn, so he’d be a great fit for any organization,” Munchak said. “We know what it’s like to have a great defensive line coach, and he’d fit that bill, so I’m very much interested in him.”

An Atlanta native, Rocker starred on Pat Dye’s Auburn teams of the mid- to late-80’s, earning All-American honors and winning the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award in 1988. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

“Auburn is a special place because the fans are the greatest in the world,” Rocker said. “I’m appreciative for all of their support during my time as a player and as a coach.”

Rocker’s previous coaching stops have almost all been at the college level, including West Alabama (1994-96), Troy State (1997-01), Cincinnati (2002), Arkansas (2003-07) and Mississippi (2008). He spent part of the summer of 2001 working with the Indianapolis Colts and again in 2006 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as part of the NFL’s Minority Internship Program.

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