This story, written by Jeff Shearer, was originally published on auburntigers.com.
AUBURN, Ala. - Stacy Searels and Kevin Porter entered the Birmingham Hilton in 1987, the first student-athletes to represent Auburn at SEC Media Days, then it its third year.
"It's been a long time," said Searels, who would go on to earn first-team All-America honors as a senior in '87. "It was a whirlwind. I know we had to wear a coat and tie. Being able to go to Birmingham, probably at that time, I didn't realize how special that was to be chosen to represent Auburn.
"You don't realize some of that until you look back on it. You don't realize how special it is to be a captain or anything like that, because all Coach Dye did was work the dog out of us. We didn't have time to think about that."
In his second season as the offensive line coach at North Carolina, Searels hopes to compete against his alma mater in Atlanta when the Tar Heels play Auburn, the second game on the Tigers' 2020 schedule.
"All our coaches and players are trying to stay safe and do things right," he said. "Hopefully it'll calm down by the time the season gets going and everything will get started like it's supposed to."
Twenty-one years later, fellow Auburn offensive lineman Jason Bosley represented the Tigers at SEC Media Days in 2008.
"One of the most unique experiences that I can say that I've done in my life," said Bosley, who recalls starting the day with a 6 a.m. conditioning workout on the Plains before flying to Birmingham. "I still talk about that experience to this day. I was thrilled to do it and loved it."
Bosley's cool demeanor in front of the cameras impressed his future employer at an insurance agency, resulting in interviews and his first job after graduation.
"Being able to stay calm under pressure when you're getting a lot of questions thrown at you," Bosley said. "And that you can communicate effectively and articulately, and get your point across."
An insurance executive in Birmingham, Bosley believes his media sessions at Auburn helped prepare him for business success. He encourages the current Tigers to use their interactions with reporters to build their brands.
"It's a great opportunity for student-athletes to display their communication skills," he said. "You can really shine. This is a national news event. You can really use it to your advantage. Somebody's going to be watching and someone's going to say, 'Man, I like that guy. He's sharp.'
"When I'm in a difficult situation in the business world, you can really pull back those skills you learned from interviewing with the media and go into that mode to say, 'I have to sell my company, I have to sell our message.'"
In 2010, on the eve of Auburn's national championship season, senior linebacker Josh Bynes arrived at the Wynfrey Hotel looking sharp from head to toe. Well, at least from head to ankle.
"I packed my suit and everything I needed to have ready," Bynes said. "But then I noticed on the day of, I didn't have any shoes. And I was like, 'How did I forget my shoes?' I had everything else but the shoes."
Auburn's media relations staff tried to rectify the situation by taking Bynes to a shoe store before his interviews began, but it was closed, leaving Josh to wear the Under Armour slides he'd packed.
"'I'll be okay with slides,'" Bynes remembers thinking, adding that he didn't embarrass easily and knew most of the camera shots would be from the waist up. "It turned out to be something funny. It was well worth it for sure."
Bynes may have lacked dress shoes, but he didn't lack confidence. He knew the 2010 Tigers were primed for a title run.
"That whole year I was pretty much talking about us winning a national championship," he said. "We were confident that our team was capable of winning it all. Media day was the perfect time for us to go out there and be confident, speaking what we believed."
A decade later, Bynes is still playing, entering his 10th NFL season, his first with Cincinnati. In his second season, he added a Super Bowl ring to his national championship ring, helping Baltimore win Super Bowl 47.
"It's super exciting and I'm super blessed," he said.
Auburn Athletics photographer Todd Van Emst began covering SEC Media Days for the Tigers in 2003, taking hundreds of thousands of pictures at the event over the past two decades.
Here are "Todd's Top Ten" from what's been called the unofficial kickoff of college football season.