By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Kamryn Pettway heard the talk. How Auburn’s backfield could struggle in 2016 to replace its three leading rushers from the previous season.
Where some saw a problem, Pettway saw an opportunity.
“I was thinking it’s my time to show everybody what I can do,” Pettway said. “I hadn’t proven myself up until that point. I felt like it was my time, and I was ready for it.”
The SEC’s top rusher a year ago, Pettway averaged 122.4 yards per game. Seven 100-yard games. The first Auburn back since Bo Jackson in 1985 to have four consecutive 150-yard games.
“It played out well for me, knowing that I redshirted first, then I moved to fullback,” said Pettway, who did not record a carry as a redshirt freshman fullback in 2015. “I wasn’t getting the ball, so I was getting a little discouraged. But then the opportunity came for me this year, and I just seized the moment.”
Pettway’s season total, 1,224 yards, is the 13th highest in Auburn history.
“I thought my time would come, eventually,” he said. “I just knew patience was the key to success.”
At Prattville High School, Pettway was the featured back. As a senior in 2013, he gained 1,402 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. Still, nearly three years had elapsed since that time.
“It wasn’t hard at all,” he said. “I was just so ready for it.”
Pettway sees the positives of his redshirt season and temporary position change.
“I think it helped, redshirting and then playing fullback,” he said. “Fullback definitely got me tough, down there blocking in the trenches. I think it kept me fresh.”
For an encore, Pettway plans to take advantage of Auburn’s balance and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey’s emphasis on a vertical passing game, even if that means a decreased workload.
“Maybe fewer carries, but they’re going to be more explosive carries, because we’ll have wide receivers opening up holes,” Pettway said. “It’s not a nine-man box that I have to try to run through. And being able to catch some passes out of the backfield. That will be good, too.”
Pettway caught one pass for 12 yards as a freshman. Last season, he caught two for 14. If his No. 36 is called on pass plays this season, Pettway says he’ll be ready.
“I’ve got pretty good hands,” he said. “I played receiver my ninth grade year, so I’ve got experience with the ball.”
Pettway plays a starring role in an offense that returns 93 percent of its production from 2016.
“I feel like we’re going to be a really good team this year,” he said. “The passing game is going to open up the run game a little bit more for us. We have a lot of people coming back on defense. We have some good young guys who are stepping up. I feel like everybody wants it.”
Pettway, who will graduate in December in interdisciplinary studies, plans to eventually coach high school football or become a football agent. He says he chose Auburn in part because of its proximity, and because he grew up watching games with his dad, Orlando, an Auburn fan.
“It’s worked out well for me,” he said. “I think I made the right choice.”
After averaging 5.86 yards per carry last season, Pettway was an observer on A-Day, while Auburn’s coaches evaluated other running backs.
Before the spring scrimmage, Pettway received the Pat Sullivan Award for being the offensive player of the year.
“It meant a lot to win that award,” Pettway said. “To win an award named after him, it feels like a big deal.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer