More than 4,100 miles away from the Plains of Auburn, Alabama, resides possibly one of the biggest Auburn University fans in the world.
He adorns orange and blue every day and has “recruited” his entire family to watch all Auburn football games and shout a friendly “War Eagle.” He even named his dog “Gus” after former Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn, and he has become so well-known online that many other Auburn fans frequently send him boxes of Auburn merchandise as a token of appreciation for his immense Auburn loyalty.
Meet Paul Mortimer, a resident of Westhoughton, England, who — interestingly and unexpectedly enough — became an Auburn fan 10 years ago not only for his interest in American football but mostly for that of another favorite American pastime.
Westhoughton, England, resident Paul Mortimer poses with his dog, Gus — named after former Auburn football Head Coach Gus Malzahn.
A harmonious kickoff
“It all starts with music,” he said on a recent Zoom call, standing in front of a wall covered with Auburn items in his home in the United Kingdom. “I love music — and, specifically, I love country music.”
That’s right — Mortimer loves Auburn football and country music, and he lives a 14-hour flight away from Alabama. So, how did this happen?
The story began in 2013 when Mortimer took to the internet to find a country music station since one didn’t really exist at the time in England. After some searching, he found a station called Bama Country, based out of Montgomery, Alabama. He really liked the music they played, and while he listened “football kept getting mentioned,” he said, noting that two university teams in particular were always central to the discussion – Auburn and Alabama.
After hearing frequently about the two teams, Mortimer became interested and decided he wanted to learn more. After all, he grew up having watched NFL games with his dad while he was young, and as a result he already loved the professional side of the sport. In researching Auburn, he discovered highlights from an Auburn game that had just occurred and became known as the “Prayer at Jordan-Hare” miracle, with Auburn beating the University of Georgia following a fourth-quarter Hail Mary pass that tipped into the hands of wide receiver Ricardo Louis for a 73-yard touchdown.
The following week, Mortimer was surprised to find a station on his TV that was broadcasting American college football, and the upcoming Iron Bowl was being touted.
He watched the matchup — now known as the infamous “Got a second?” game — where Auburn cornerback Chris Davis ran back a failed Alabama field goal attempt 109 yards in the final second of regulation for a touchdown and an electric win.
“The way that ended, there was no way I was not going to be a fan from that point on,” Mortimer said. “I was just in shock and awe at what happened. It just captured me straight away.”
Westhoughton, England, resident Paul Mortimer is pictured wearing an Auburn football jersey.
Passing along a love for Auburn
Ten years later, Mortimer says he’s even more of an Auburn fan.
“As the years have gone on, it has just gotten bigger and bigger, and I watch every single game, even if it is at 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said, adding that most Auburn football games are televised in his home country either really late at night or extremely early in the morning.
He initially spread his love of Auburn to his family. His oldest son, Adam, 19, is a “massive fan,” Mortimer said. His wife, Allie, also is a big supporter of Auburn, and his youngest son, Isaac, 16, watches all Auburn games with the family. Mortimer then began to spread his affinity for the team online by posting what he calls “silly gameday memes” on a Facebook page he created, called “The British Auburn Fan.”
“I was posting them on my page, and there were people sharing them,” he said. “And I got so many people suddenly following me and sending me messages liking the posts and asking why I was an Auburn fan. And it just went absolutely nuts.”
Mortimer has purchased several of the Auburn merchandise items he owns — noting how the shipping and handling to England can cost almost as much as the actual product. And while the normal fan attire in his hometown is usually based on the football Americans call soccer and a professional team called Manchester United, Mortimer makes sure to wear Auburn shirts daily — which he laughingly admits might be “a bit odd” to some in Westhoughton.
“Orange and blue every day, without fail — and even more so on Saturdays,” said Mortimer, whose day job is in IT and whose weekend hobby is in entertainment, with him singing and playing all types of music on an acoustic guitar at community gatherings.
Mortimer isn’t alone, though, when it comes to international Auburn fans. Auburn alumni are present in more than 100 countries globally, many living specifically in London. Auburn also has nearly 1,800 international students currently enrolled from nearly 100 countries, and approximately 1,300 Auburn students study abroad each year.
Paul Mortimer has purchased and been given many items of Auburn merchandise through the years. He proudly displays the items at his home in Westhoughton, England.
A winning connection
Mortimer said he’s heard from many Auburn fans from all over. He said a majority of the Auburn items he now possesses have been sent to him by members of the Auburn Family from throughout the United States. He said he never intended for such a reaction and just wanted to share his love for Auburn, but he has been amazed at the outpouring of support to him by fellow Auburn fans.
“That sort of built my love for Auburn even more — just how amazingly kind they were,” he said, noting how one fan mailed him a toilet paper roll that was used to roll one of the trees at the famed Toomer’s Corner in celebration of Auburn’s 2019 Iron Bowl win.
“Someone collected that from the tree, rolled it up for me, wrote the score on it and then sent it to me,” he said with a big smile.
Mortimer has the roll prominently displayed in his home, with the roll being attached to a wooden plaque depicting one of the Toomer’s oaks.
Through the years, Mortimer has desperately wanted to visit Auburn and attend a football game. He had started saving money for his family to do just that several years ago, but a series of unfortunate events occurred.
The global outbreak of COVID-19, of course, ceased international travel for quite a while. Mortimer’s father also sadly and unexpectedly passed away due to COVID. After global travel eased, Mortimer’s wife suffered a major injury, with her spine being broken in several places. While his wife has healed from the injury, she is unable to go on long flights. However, she made it clear to Mortimer that she wanted him to still live out his dream and visit Auburn.
And that leads to the most recent development — Mortimer is now set to attend this year’s Iron Bowl on Nov. 25. He credits his Auburn Family with the opportunity. While he was set to use a ticket he would purchase on his own, a fellow Auburn fan known to him for the past several years through his Facebook page messaged him and not only offered a place for him to stay but sent a photograph of an Iron Bowl ticket purchased just for him so he can attend with the fan and her family.
“I tried to offer her payment back for them. She won’t take it,” he said.
In addition to the generosity of individual members of the Auburn Family, Auburn University also recently surprised Mortimer by announcing in a Zoom call with him that Auburn will treat him to an Ultimate Auburn VIP experience while he is in town for the Iron Bowl. That experience will begin with Mortimer attending everything from an Auburn vs. Alabama volleyball match three days before the Iron Bowl to a Football, Fans and Feathers event at the Auburn University Raptor Center on Nov. 24. Then, on Nov. 25, Mortimer will tour the Woltosz Football Performance Center as well as participate in Auburn’s Tiger Walk to Jordan-Hare Stadium. He then will get to view the famed eagle flight from field level at Jordan-Hare as well as watch the Auburn Marching Band during halftime and view the final quarter of the Iron Bowl from the field. The next day, Mortimer will attend a women’s basketball game in Neville Arena and experience a holiday lighting ceremony on the lawn in front of Samford Hall. He’ll receive a campus tour on Nov. 27 from the War Eagle Girls and Plainsmen, and he’ll attend the men’s basketball game vs. Virginia Tech on Nov. 29.
Upon hearing about the VIP experience offered by Auburn, Mortimer quickly teared up.
“About six weeks ago I wasn’t even getting in the stadium, and now I’m going to be on the field,” he said while fighting back tears. “You’ve just made what was already going to be an amazing experience just mind-blowing. I’ll have to process it — it’s just amazing. Thank you so much!”
“I just want to see everything – everything I’ve heard of and read about.”
Many items of Auburn merchandise are proudly displayed on the walls of Paul Mortimer's home in Westhoughton, England.
Receiving the experience of a lifetime
Mortimer said he continues to be in awe of the Auburn Family, and he can’t wait to experience all Auburn has to offer — adding that it will be a dream come true, especially with it being the 10-year anniversary of Auburn’s iconic Iron Bowl win in 2013 that led to his immense love for the university.
“I’d love to get the chance to roll the trees with a big win. I think I might go down there and roll them anyway, regardless, if that’s allowed,” he said with a laugh.
He said he’s also excited to see Neville Arena since he’s not just an Auburn football fan. In addition to football, he watches Auburn basketball, baseball and gymnastics from England and follows the equestrian team online.
“I just want to see everything – everything I’ve heard of and read about,” he said.
Mortimer then quoted a line from legendary Auburn football Head Coach Pat Dye, further affirming his place as a true Auburn fan.
“Alabama fans love Alabama football, but Auburn fans love Auburn,” he said.