Austin Perryman

On The Plains with Rivaldo Fairweather: 'Fell in love with it'

AUBURN, Ala. – If you had asked senior tight end Rivaldo Fairweather in high school where he thought he would be in four years, he would have said playing basketball and preparing for the NBA.

Now, in his second year as a student-athlete in the Southeastern Conference, Fairweather is looking to seal his name in the Auburn record book.  

Most people would assume that SEC athletes have been playing their sport since around the time they could walk. This is not the case for Fairweather.  

“A lot of people don’t know this, but I started playing football kind of late,” Fairweather said. “I started my junior year of high school, so I was about 16 years old. I had always played basketball and I had always thought I was going to go to the NBA.”

The Lauderhill, Florida, native attended Boyd Anderson High School. “I was in the gym one day and the football coaches, Coach Gray and Coach Tindall, asked me to come play football,” Fairweather said. “I used to always get fouled out a lot, because I was a lot more aggressive on the basketball court, so they told me to come out and try it and I just fell in love with it.”  

After focusing on football, Fairweather began his collegiate career at Florida International University, where he caught 54 receptions for 838 yards while earning Preseason All-Conference USA honors, before transferring to the Plains prior to the 2023 season.  


Fairweather quickly found his home at Auburn because of the Auburn Family. “I was able to see how it was family-oriented, and I knew about the culture here – how it really is a football school,” Fairweather said.

“I came from a smaller school without fans like that. I remember watching some of the Auburn games before I came here and thinking one day I want to be in the SEC. It’s really just a blessing. There are a lot of legends like Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton who have come here, and I want to be able to put my name in the history books right next to theirs.”

Being able to adjust from the different environment of a small school compared to an SEC school extended beyond just the football field for Fairweather. One of those big adjustments came in the classrooms and on campus. Transitioning from primarily online classes to in-person classes was a big change, but Fairweather has enjoyed it.  

“When you walk around campus, people will say, ‘Hey, what’s up ‘Valdo,’ and it’s just a blessing to have people who know my name,” Fairweather, a sociology major in the College of Liberal Arts, said. “It makes going to classes fun.”

The work you put in when you’re not in the stadium and it’s not gameday, and the work you put in while everyone else is just relaxing – that is the work that really shows on the field.


Tight End Rivaldo Fairweather

Fairweather, who won the Pat Sullivan Award as the 2023 outstanding player on offense, has a lot of anticipation for what is to come and a desire to build off last season. His 38 catches in 2023 set an Auburn tight end receiving record and he totaled six touchdown catches for the Tigers, including scores in SEC wins over Arkansas and Vanderbilt and the game-winning touchdown at California.

“I give all the glory to God because He put me in this position, and He had a plan for me,” Fairweather said. “I am just so thankful for my name to be associated with Pat Sullivan, someone who won a Heisman here.”

Fairweather feels that this year will be even better on the Plains not only for himself but the team.

“Just from the spring, we are clicking fast,” Fairweather said. “Quarterbacks, receivers and all the offense are on the same page. Our defense is really good, and that makes us better.”

Individually, Fairweather has a lot of goals as he returns to the team following an extremely solid first year wearing the Orange and Blue.

“I want to show that I can be the best in the SEC, and I felt like last year, I showed it here and there. But I felt like I left a lot of food on the table,” Fairweather said. “This year, I want to show that I am the number one tight end in the nation.”

Part of being the best is also what you learn off the field, and head coach Hugh Freeze has taught Fairweather a great deal.

“Coach Freeze has said that football teaches you a lot of life lessons,” Fairweather said. “You are not going to succeed every time. Sometimes you are going to fail, but it’s not failure. It’s a learning opportunity and a steppingstone in your path.

“One game you could go out there and catch 10 passes, rush for 100 yards and score a touchdown, but then the next game the ball may not come your way and you may lose the game. It teaches you to never focus on the past, but to focus on what is to come.”

Fairweather is focused on moving into this season and reaching new heights. “I just want to let the Auburn fans know that there are plenty more rewards coming in the season ahead,” Fairweather said, looking ahead to the 2024 campaign as well as his planned graduation in December.  

Fairweather can remember what it was like to just be starting his football career, especially starting on this path later than most, and his outlook toward reaching his goals has not changed.  

“Just keep pushing and trust in God,” he said. “What happens in the dark is going to come to light. The work you put in when you’re not in the stadium and it’s not gameday, and the work you put in while everyone else is just relaxing – that is the work that really shows on the field.” 

20240406_FB_ADay_Fairweather13_FreezeH_AP_1634AUBURN, AL - April 06, 2024 - Auburn Tight End Rivaldo Fairweather (#13) and Head Coach Hugh Freeze pose with the 2023 Pat Sullivan Award before the A-Day Spring Game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, AL. Photo by Austin Perryman