Germany’s Kilian Zierer’s journey comes full circle with family’s first Auburn game

By Greg Ostendorf

AUBURN, Ala. – There’s a joy you experience when you attend your first Auburn football game. From Tiger Walk to the eagle flight to the team running out of the tunnel to cheering on the Tigers with 87,000 other fans, it’s something you don’t forget.

Susanna Scholz certainly won’t forget her first Auburn game.

Scholz, the mother of starting offensive lineman Kilian Zierer, attended the San Jose State game in September. She and her other son traveled all the way from Germany to be there. Most fans left early after a 90-minute weather delay in the second half but not Scholz. She stayed through it all. When Swag Surf came on at the end of the third quarter, Zierer looked up and saw his mom swaying back and forth with the other fans around her.

On the field after the game, you could see that unmistakable joy as Scholz, still soaking wet from the rain, spotted her son and ran to give him a hug.

“She loved everything about it,” Zierer said. “Absolutely everything. I saw her doing the Swag Surf, which was extremely funny. She was out there in the rain, stayed after the rain delay. I’ve never seen my mom have so much fun at a sporting event.”

Getting to Auburn from Germany is no easy task, but Scholz is already talking about coming back for another game later this season. It’s worth it to see her son doing what he loves.

“I’m proud and excited and happy,” Scholz said Friday before the game.

Zierer’s road to Auburn wasn’t easy either, but it’s a path he would take again if given the choice.

There are times when Zierer cannot believe he’s playing football at Auburn.

“I’m not really supposed to be here,” he’ll say to himself.

Zierer grew up in Munich, Germany where football is an afterthought to soccer. He started out as a wide receiver/tight end, moved to the offensive line at 220 pounds, and then returned to tight end his senior year in high school. He had interest from one school in the United States – College of the Canyons, a junior college in Santa Clarita, California.

“I’ll go there. Why not?” thought Zierer, who knew nothing about college football at the time.

“That first year he called us daily, and we talked for half an hour,” recalled his younger brother, Wilson. “It was hard at first, but after one or two years, it got better.”

Sep 3, 2022; Auburn, Al, USA; Kilian Zierer’s family attend game between Auburn and Mercer at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo: Zach Bland/AU Athletics

In the spring after his first season at College of the Canyons, Zierer earned a scholarship offer from Auburn. Wilson, who was with Kilian at the time, still remembers that call.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, they really called him,’” the younger brother recalled. “There were like six people sitting there talking with us. They really wanted to talk to my mom. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this for real.’”

Kilian hopped on a plane to Auburn the next week and fell in love with it. He committed two months later. However, he still had one more season to play in junior college football and was playing some of his best football when adversity struck again. He suffered a torn ACL.

She loved everything about it. Absolutely everything. I’ve never seen my mom have so much fun at a sporting event.
Kilian Zierer

Auburn stayed true to their word and kept the scholarship offer, and Zierer signed with the Tigers three weeks after having surgery. He spent the next year in Auburn rehabbing, and shortly after his arrival, the campus and town essentially shut down because of the COVID pandemic. He couldn’t go back home. He didn’t know anybody in Auburn. All he had was his rehab.

When Zierer finally took the field for the first time at Auburn, it was a struggle.

“My first year here, I couldn’t block anybody,” he said. “I got put on scout team because my knee didn’t work. I was not a good player that year. I didn’t know how the future was going to be.”

Zierer had an additional surgery on his knee after that 2020 season, and when he recovered from that, the knee felt as good as new. Everything took off from there.

In 2021, Zierer saw his first game action in the opener against Akron. He earned his first start Arkansas where he was named the team’s offensive lineman of the week. He started the Alabama game as well. And following a strong offseason with no setbacks, he won the starting left tackle job for the Tigers this season – his final season on the Plains.

“When I got to start my first game at Arkansas, I realized I can actually play in this league,” he said. “And then it just got better and better from there.”

The road wasn’t easy, but Zierer went from a 220-pound tight end in Germany with one junior college showing interest to a starting left tackle in the SEC.

A little more than two hours before kickoff against San Jose State, Zierer’s family stood in line on South Donahue awaiting Tiger Walk. His younger brother had Kilian’s jersey on. His father who also made the trip along with his stepmother, was asked to hold up one side of the “Tiger Walk” banner. Everybody had on “Germanator”  or “77” buttons that his girlfriend made. They were ready.

Most games Zierer gets off the bus and walks through the crowd of people to the stadium without stopping. This game was different. A smile came across his face as soon as he saw his family. He stopped and hugged his mom, his dad, his brother. He took some photos.

“It was awesome to see them out here at Tiger Walk,” Zierer said. “It was a great experience not to have to walk down Tiger Walk and not seeing any family really. Like all the other guys here, I got to see my family.”

Longtime Auburn fan Ron Terry was next to the Zierer family at Tiger Walk and was astonished when he found out they had traveled all the way from Germany to be there.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Terry said. “When he came through, the family was hugging him and kissing him. It really made me feel good. They didn’t know what this was all about. They said they’re so impressed so far with everything. I said, ‘No matter what you do, you need to get into the stadium to watch the eagle fly. That will give you goosebumps.’”

Zierer’s family did see the eagle fly. They saw the team run out of the tunnel. They even took part in the Swag Surf. Most importantly, they saw their son play in person.

It didn’t matter that it rained or that it wasn’t an SEC game. It was their first Auburn game, and it’s something they will never forget.

“Auburn is really like a big family,” said Zierer’s mother during her trip.

A family that now extends all the way to Germany.

Images and story credit: Auburn Tigers

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