Ziemba doesn't buy payment claims

If money was being passed around at Auburn like some of Lee Ziemba’s former teammates claim it was, he wants to know why he was excluded.

Ziemba, an All-America offensive tackle on the Tigers’ national championship team last season, told ESPN.com on Wednesday that he never received any improper benefits during his time at Auburn and doesn’t believe the claims of four former players, who told HBO Real Sports that they were paid by Auburn boosters, and in one instance, by an unnamed assistant coach during the Tommy Tuberville era.

“I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but if anybody would have seen something like that, I think I would have been one of those people,” Ziemba said. “I was heavily recruited, and there was a huge battle between Arkansas and Auburn to get me. I was never once offered any money and never saw or heard anything close to what they’re saying. I could have used the money, too. College was a struggle financially. There were some nights I was trying to decide whether to put gas in my truck or eat a meal.”

The HBO Real Sports show will air Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET, and the SportsByBrooks website received a transcript of an advance copy from the show.

The former Auburn players claiming they were paid were Stanley McClover (2003-05), Troy Reddick (2002-05), Chaz Ramsey (2007) and Raven Gray (2008).

Ziemba says he and Ramsey roomed together as freshmen. Ramsey later sued Auburn for not properly managing his back injury, a suit that was eventually thrown out of court.

“We were both scratching around for enough money to buy a $5 footlong at Subway,” Ziemba said. “If he were getting thousands of dollars, you’re not going to keep that quiet. I would have heard about it, and he would have been spending so out of control that I would have noticed something.”

Ziemba said he and several of his former Auburn teammates had been talking among themselves Wednesday trying to figure out if certain players had indeed been paid. He said nobody had any pay-for-play stories during their time on the Plains.

“All this talk about $500 handshakes … I walked out of those same locker rooms 52 times after games, met those same boosters and got to know them and not once did anybody give me a dime,” Ziemba said. “It’s just not plausible.”

Asked what motives the players would have for making up these claims, Ziemba said, “Maybe they’re trying to get 15 more minutes of fame. Maybe they’re trying to make Auburn look bad because their time there wasn’t what they wanted it to be. I don’t know, but I’m not buying any of it.

"The whole thing is sickening because Auburn has taken enough blows."