Two Auburn linebackers will be heading to midfield before kickoff this season after being picked by their fellow teammates as captains for the 2021 season, a rarity for a teams’ captains to play on the same side of the ball.
Junior Owen Pappoe and Senior Chandler Wooten were selected as captains for the Tigers after being voted on by their teammates last week.
“It was awesome to hear those words come out of his mouth,” Wooten said. “To know that my teammates voted me and Owen as permanent captains, it was a true honor and a blessing.”
Pappoe, a two-year starter from Lawrenceville, Georgia, enters his third year with the Tigers having solidified his role on the team. After totaling 49 tackles during his freshman year in 2019, he went on to nearly double that in 2020, finishing with 93 tackles, four sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception.
“Just to be selected by my teammates, it means a lot to me,” Pappoe said. “It just shows me that all of the work that I’ve been putting in from leadership and just handling all my business on the field has paid off.”
The news of Pappoe being named a captain took him back to a moment from his recruitment. The junior linebacker received an offer from the Tigers when he was in middle school, and while on a visit before coming to play he was shown the captain bricks, with each signifying a captain for Auburn’s football team.
“I remember taking that tour on the campus when I came for a visit and they’re showing me the bricks on the ground,” Pappoe said. “(They said) ‘these are the captain bricks, if you’re elected captain you get a brick on the ground.’ I just remember thinking that would be a cool thing to have one day.”
Wooten took a different route on his road to becoming a team captain. The senior linebacker opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns with Covid-19 and has only started two games in his career at Auburn. While Wooten may not have the flashy stats — he only has 45 tackles through his three years of playing — he does have the respect of his teammates and his new head coach, Bryan Harsin.
“He works hard, he shows up every day,” Harsin said. “I’ve got a deep appreciation for him.”
Before meeting him for the first time, Harsin was doubting Wooten’s commitment to the team after his opt out the year before; however, once they met it was made apparent that Wooten had a place and was a leader on the team. The five-minute talk the two had scheduled turned into a 45-minute discussion between the to-be captain and coach.
"He asked me who I was," Wooten said. "I told him, 'I'm a leader.' I remember walking out of the office and talking Coach (Jeff) Schmedding and saying, 'That's the kind of coach I want to play for.'"
Wooten is also one of the few remaining players from the 2017 Tiger team that won the SEC West and secured a trip to a New Year's Six Bowl. With a new coaching staff and several new transfer players, the Tigers will need the veteran leadership that Wooten brings.
Wooten isn’t only a role model for his teammates, but for the community and in his own family. He became vocal last summer during protests for racial equality, including going viral on Twitter for a post from a protest and publishing an essay on what it is like to be an African-American man and his concern for the future. Wooten also became a father in November 2020, and brings his son to practices from time-to-time.
“I just want to have (my son) around as much as I can just so he can experience this last ride with me,” Wooten said. “He may not remember it, but I’ll remember it.”
The Pappoe and Wooten led Tigers will open their season on Saturday against Akron. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.