A Great Life and the Ultimate Vantage Point

Lyn Scarbrough

December 20, 2018 at 6:15 pm.

Lyn Scarbrough (left) and Steve Hoffman at 2013 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

Lyn Scarbrough (left) and Steve Hoffman at the 2013 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

Steve Hoffman credited Auburn with prolonging his life.

More specifically, he credited Dee Ford and Johnny Manziel.

It was late October, 2013, and Auburn was playing the Aggies and Manziel, their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, at Kyle Field in College Station. Once-beaten Auburn, the underdog, was ahead, 45-41, with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and A&M had driven to the Tigers’ 26-yard line.

Slippery, resourceful, elusive Manziel had one last chance to pull out another Aggie victory.

But it wasn’t to be.

The Auburn defensive front pressured Manziel out of the pocket and Ford, the senior All-SEC end, sacked his final futile chance.

A raucous celebration erupted in the Auburn section of the Kyle Field stands … and in the Hoffman residence in Cincinnati, Ohio. As Tiger fans in College Station – and everywhere else – hugged and danced and jumped around, so did Steve and his wife, Susan.

They were joyous. The Tigers had won. The first building block to the BCS National Championship Game was put in place.

Soon after, the news wasn’t so good. Steve had noticed blood, and went to his urologist to be checked out. He had a tumor, diagnosed to be malignant, in the bladder area. It was fortunate that evidence of the problem had shown itself, the doctor told Steve. Apparently, something of impact must have caused that to happen.

“The only thing that we could think of was how we jumped around after Auburn sacked Manziel and won the game,” Steve told us. “If not for that, we wouldn’t have known and treatment might not have done any good. So, you could say that Auburn saved my life.”

I do think that Steve believed that, but he was also sort of finding humor in a bad situation. That was the way Steve Hoffman lived his life. Almost always smiling, upbeat, positive, encouraging even when there was little reason to be that way.

Steve’s path for becoming an Auburn fan was a strange one.

A proud Xavier University graduate, Hoffman enjoyed college football, but the Musketeers discontinued the sport back in 1973. Understandably, he was an avid fan of Xavier basketball. He became a fan of Ohio State football, following Woody Hayes, Earle Bruce and John Cooper.

But a significant change happened in their family’s life. Susan’s sister, Shauna, accepted a position with the Auburn University Pharmacy School and she invited Steve and Susan to Lee County to attend their first Auburn football game.

The deed was done.

Steve immediately connected with Auburn tradition, the friendship of its people, the passion of its fan base.

“It’s not like this in the Big Ten,” he told me.

Now he had two teams – Ohio State and Auburn.

Over the years, Steve would join me, usually with Susan, sometimes also with Shauna, sometimes by himself, at a lot of stadiums – in Athens and New Orleans, Knoxville and Lexington, Tampa and Nashville, Auburn … and Phoenix.

Of all of those memories, one stands out above the rest.

It was early January, 2011 and Auburn had just defeated Oregon in Arizona to win the national championship. I spent some of that game in the press box, some in the stands with my wife, Cindy. Before entering the stadium, we were with Steve, then the three of us met up in the parking lot outside when it was over.

Cindy and Steve hugged and danced and jumped around and didn’t care who was watching. It was a joyous time. Everybody was smiling.

Steve Hoffman lived life with a smile.

He was loyal to his friends, cared about their families, shared their happiness and their problems. He was a business owner, conscientious about quality and customer service. He was devoted to his family members, cherished their time and experiences together. And he was a fighter, always optimistic and hopeful, giving it his best even against what he called “this pesky cancer.”

His fight lasted five years. There were extensive rounds of chemotherapy, doctors in Cincinnati and Cleveland, a lot of discomfort, sickness and pain. But when you talked with Steve, you would never know it. That’s not what he talked about.

Cindy and Steve shared the same birthdate in August and he would always call so that they could exchange birthday greetings. He made that call again four months ago.

The last time that I talked with Steve was ironically, fittingly after Auburn’s comeback win over Texas A&M in early November. While I was driving back from that game, he called, checking in to celebrate the Tigers’ win and to bemoan the fact that we couldn’t get together in Maui when the Xavier and Auburn basketball teams met several weeks later.

Steve’s fight ended a few days ago. When he left the hospital for the final time, he thanked his doctors and nurses, shook their hands, expressed appreciation for their care and their concern. That’s the kind of person that Steve Hoffman was.

He passed away at home in Cincinnati with family members nearby five days after that last hospital stay ended.

Ironically, fittingly Oregon will be the next opponent when Auburn opens its 2019 football season at Jerry World in Dallas on August 31. When the game was first announced a few years ago, Steve and I talked about meeting again, this time in Texas, for another Tigers game against the Ducks.

That won’t happen now. Steve won’t be there in­-person. But I suspect he may have the best seat in the house when the game kicks off that day. And, if Auburn wins, his friends may meet in the parking lot outside the stadium after the game and hug and jump and dance around and not care who is watching.

Steve might be looking down and smiling, watching from the ultimate vantage point.

It would be another joyous time.

War Eagle, Steve! Rest in peace.