Wiregrass artist renders Auburn eagle for Center

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stephen Malkoff draws Tiger, the Auburn eagle. | Courtesy photo

Put a pencil in Stephen Malkoff’s hand, and he’s in heaven.

The Enterprise native has been using the gift that God gave him since he was in the seventh grade, which eventually led him to Auburn University.

Malkoff suffers from dyslexia, and his discovery in art has led him to be a nationally known pencil artist whose drawings have been featured in Southern Living, Country Living and Guidepost. In addition, Malkoff’s work was captured on film in a documentary titled “Tree Lines: The Art of Stephen Malkoff.”

“My ability to draw was a type of discovery, not a learning process,” Malkoff said.

To celebrate Auburn University’s eagle, Tiger’s, 30th birthday, Malkoff has drawn the eagle mascot for the Southeastern Raptor Center on the university’s campus to help raise support for the welcome center for the Edgar B. Carter Educational Amphitheater.

“It’s an honor for me personally to use the gift God has given me to give back to the university that’s given so much to me,” Malkoff said. “The thing that makes Tiger so special is that she is the first eagle to make the free flight (on to the field) — the greatest tradition of football. She is, in my opinion, the greatest common denominator in football.

“When the eagle flies, the game takes second stage,” he said. “It doesn’t mater what colors you have on.”

Malkoff started to work on the drawing in April when he went to take the eagle’s picture.

He said it took 500 shots for him to take the right one of Tiger.

“Tiger didn’t look as fierce,” Malkoff said. “Roy Crowe, the lead bird handler at the Southeastern Raptor Center told me ‘to get ready, and that you’re about to get a pose.’

“Tiger sees some doves flying into the field, and she sure enough — when Tiger saw those doves she stretched her neck out and watched them. The last four photos were the ones I used to make the drawing of Tiger.”

The drawing, which was handcrafted by Malkoff, took three months to draw, and there will be a limited print run of 3,000 prints.

In addition, to commemorate Tiger’s 30th birthday, Malkoff’s drawing will be unveiled at half time of Auburn’s homecoming game on Sat., Nov. 6 at the 50-yard line.

A big Auburn fan, Malkoff kept an interest in art all the way through high school, and eventually earned an art scholarship at Enterprise Community College. Two years later, he found himself on Auburn’s campus majoring in architecture and playing for the Tigers as a walk on junior linebacker.

While a student-athlete at Auburn, Malkoff said the first practice was a hard one, and after some encouragement from an assistant coach, he decided to stay on the team.

“I thought about quitting after that first practice,” he said. “One of the managers put his arms around me and said don’t quit, (former linebackers) coach (Reggie) Herring likes you.

“That was all the encouragement I needed, and I made the team,” he said.

Malkoff’s first playing time came in 1988 against Kansas, where on special teams, he tackled the kickoff returner. He still remembers that tackle to this day.

“I felt a little embarassed because I felt like all I am going to do is stand on the field and not be able to play,” he said about the game. “Auburn gets the ball and goes right down the field and scores a touchdown.

“Then, coach Herring came over to me personally, and said ‘Malkoff, son, I tried to run you off, but I couldn’t. Since you’ve become a part of this team, I’ve had the most productive practices.'”

After that, Malkoff said he was sent on the field with an incentive to do well for his coach.

“He said I am going to send you in on a kickoff,” he said. “He also said ‘if you miss a tackle, you’ll never see the field again.’ So, basically he was rewarding me. I go out there and it was a center kickoff. I ran down that field and the wall formed, and I hit the wall and when I woke up, I was laying on top of the guy with the ball. I made the most beautiful unconcious tackle you’ll ever see.”

Malkoff played in five to six games that season, and in the Kansas game, made another tackle on a kickoff.

For more information on the drawing or to purchase a print, visit www.tiger30.com, or call 1-888-410-3559.

Malkoff is a full-time artist, and is married to Lori, and has three children.