AUBURN, Ala. — It's Friday, Dec. 19. Reese Dismukes doesn't know that, though. Auburn's senior center is simply looking forward to the 21st. That's when the Tigers hold their final practice in Auburn before giving players some time off for the holidays.
And it's because of this Dismukes doesn't want to keep track of the days: because they're numbered.
"(I'm) trying to make the best of it because at 3:30 on the first (of January) it’s going to be over," the senior center said, in a tone that was more straightforward than wistful. "It’s going to be the next group of guys stepping in and really just moving on.”
Yes, the Tigers will certainly move on without Dismukes, just as they do with all players. But his legacy will live on long after he dons an Auburn uniform for the final time. And this isn't building someone up for the sake of doing it.
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Dismukes actually has the hardware to back it up.
He's the Rimington Trophy winner, which goes to the nation's top center. He was a finalist for the Outland Trophy, which goes to the country's top interior lineman. And he was a consensus All-American, coming within a whisker of being a unanimous choice. (The Sporting News, which slotted him on its second-team, is to blame for him being merely a "consensus" pick.)
Consensus All-American? National award winner?
He didn't come to Auburn four years ago expecting any of it.
That he's accomplished so much is humbling.
"Coming here that wasn't my objective by any means. My goal really was just to play," Dismukes said. "As I progressed, obviously the goals got bigger and the dreams got bigger. I’m just blessed to be able to achieve some of those things.”
The past few weeks have been a veritable celebration of Dismukes. Each day, it seemed he had been named to some All-SEC or All-American team, or perhaps was one of the select few still in the running for a prestigious individual award.
Never one to seek the spotlight, Dismukes tried to steer clear of hearing his name at all costs.
“I really just tried not to check Twitter. There was like a new one every day — you don’t even know what they are," he said. "I wouldn't be there without my teammates and coaches. Obviously I’m just extremely blessed and thankful for those guys.”
The feeling is mutual. Gus Malzahn, not known to be a talkative type, gushed about Dismukes. He noted that Dismukes could have departed after last season to enter the NFL. Instead, he returned to get his degree.
Then Malzahn ticked off a few of Dismukes' accomplishments.
"Four-year starter in our league, consensus All-American, Rimington Award winner, he deserves all of them. He’s been one of our leaders," Auburn's coach said. "I've said it before, (but) he’s an extension of our coaches. Really with what we do, he’s so valuable with our pace and that he makes calls on the run. Our center is very influential in our success, and he’s had a great career. He’s got one more game, and we’re going to do everything we can to send him out on a high note."
That game — the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla., where Auburn will take on Wisconsin — will mark the 50th start of his illustrious career. Dismukes recalled that when he first got to Auburn, then-offensive line coach Jeff Grimes told him he had a chance to break the school's all-time record for starts, held by fellow lineman Lee Ziemba, who was in the lineup 52 times from 2007-10.
"I always thought that’d be cool to be able to play that many games," Dismukes said. "You've got to be very fortunate as far as injuries go, and everything like that, because anything can happen. I've just been blessed. And to be remembered for (making that many starts), I don’t know, it’s been an awesome ride."
And it was ironic Dismukes brought up injuries. Sure, he was "fortunate" when it came to them, as he acknowledged. He wasn't some bionic man, though. He had his share of injuries, too.
In the 2012 season, he was in the lineup against Arkansas sporting a cast on his foot, courtesy of a high ankle sprain. It was an injury that should have forced him to miss at least three weeks. But Dismukes forged on — to his detriment. Against the Razorbacks, he ended up dislocating his elbow.
He only missed one game before playing out the rest of the Tigers' dreadful 2012 campaign.
When asked about injuries, Dismukes shrugged.
You know, the whole "pain is part of the game" mind-set.
“You’re going to be injured in this league, and that’s the bottom line. This game takes tough people to play. Obviously I played through a lot of pain, but so did everybody else," Dismukes said. "You don’t always know what the guy next to you is going through, so at the end of the day you just try to go out there and play for that guy next to you, and hope when he’s in the same situation you are, hopefully he’ll put the same thing on the line."
Put aside all his achievements — which are many — and Dismukes would tell you no trophy or All-American designation takes precedence in his mind.
What he values "just as much, or more," as he puts it, is serving as one of the Tigers' team captains. Every game the past two seasons — which will be 27 in all by the time he walks to midfield for the coin toss New Year's Day — Dismukes has been the offense's representative.
And in this answer, this moment, you can see how the Spanish Fort, Ala., native's career has come full-circle in his four years on the Plains.
Two years ago, he was suspended prior to the season opener versus Clemson after being arrested for public intoxication. Now, few players — if any — on the team are spoken about more glowingly or regarded more highly.
Funny how things change.
"I want to lead these guys and be the guy that they look to in tough situations," he said. " (I) just (want to) be the one they can count on."
Safe to say, that's one thing Dismukes will never have to worry about.