Tom Comer thought Marshall Henderson was coming for him.
Maybe not him, specifically. Even so, in the moments after Ole Miss sealed a win over Auburn on Jan. 26, 2013, Comer looked up to see Henderson charging toward the student section with no idea what to expect from the antagonistic player. Sitting courtside with his 91-year-old father, Comer worried he might try to run right through them.
Henderson stopped just short of their seats, popping his jersey toward the mob of agitated students. Comer instinctively stood up to face Henderson, seemingly oblivious to the chaos behind him and the cameras capturing all of it.
That’s when Austin Zinkle, a 20-year-old sophomore sitting a few rows back, decided he’d seen enough. Hurling a giant foam head into the air, Zinkle shoved students aside to force his way closer to the court and to Henderson.
Practically on cue, 22-year-old Bill Moody and his friends swept onto the scene shooting double birds and four-letter words in Henderson’s general direction.
A ridiculous, mesmerizing three-act play told in less than three seconds.
Twelve hours later, it was everywhere. Six years later, it’s still entertaining as hell.
Though the gif makes it seem as if Comer is the unofficial ringleader of the Auburn basketball mob circa 2013, his opinions about Henderson are relatively mild.
“He’s a good player,” he says. “I don’t dislike Marshall. I just found his antics irritating, you know.”
Comer, who fully embraces being known as the stern, confrontational dad of the group, says he’s been amazed by people who’ve recognized him over the years—and not just in Oxford. He once met an Ole Miss fan at a grocery store in Colorado who asked for a selfie to send to his fraternity brothers. A group of Syracuse students spotted him at the Final Four in 2013.
“It’s funny to me,” Comer says. “It took on a life I could never have imagined.”
The most common question he gets from strangers asks what he yelled at Henderson that night.
The answer? “You’re a jackass.” (Andy Kennedy once told Comer it was probably the nicest thing anyone in that video said about Marshall, which is most definitely true.)
Though it’s hard to see his face in both the gif and video clips, Zinkle’s outburst made its mark in the form of students dodging his flying foam head and at least one woman seen falling over as he pushed through.
“The goal was to charge the court and get to Marshall Henderson,” Zinkle says. “I’m pretty sure I actually said the words, ‘You better watch out; you’re not gonna get out of Auburn alive.’”
Now at the University of Kentucky where he’s pursuing a Ph.D. in history, Zinkle says he sometimes looks back at the game thinking “we were probably more obnoxious than we should have been.” He still ranks the game among his top three Auburn sports memories alongside the Prayer at Jordan-Hare and the Kick Six.
“I won’t say I’m proud of it,” he says. “But I’m a passionate sports fan and I wouldn’t say I have any regrets.”
As for Moody, who entered the youth ministry after college and now attends seminary in Dallas, the popularity of the gif and his role in it had a different impact on him.
The week following the game, he and others involved sent a group email to Auburn administrators apologizing for the way they represented the school. Shortly after, Moody sent a tweet to Henderson apologizing for his reaction.
“It was this weird combination of guilt,” he says. “My fingers were up in the air and I’m telling him to get out of Auburn. On one hand I knew I shouldn’t have done that; on the other hand, I was thinking I’ve got to defend my school.”
Aside from being recognized from the gif, Moody got even more exposure when Henderson changed his Twitter cover photo to a cropped screenshot of the Auburn footage.
“The background was literally me, my face and my fingers,” Moody says. “I can look back now and laugh about it, but it was tough.”
Six years later, Moody and his friends can look back fondly on their 15 minutes of internet fame, especially during basketball season when the gif inevitably re-circulates among Ole Miss fans.
“I can’t go a month without seeing it,” he says. “My friends and I joke that it’ll never die.”