July 18, 2013
Senior Writer Phillip Marshall accompanied senior Auburn fullback Jay Prosch as he made the rounds at Southeastern Conference Media Days on Wednesday.
By Phillip Marshall
HOOVER, Ala. - It is a little before 2 Wednesday afternoon when three Auburn football players, having polished off steaks for lunch at Shula's Steakhouse, begin the unique experience that is Southeastern Conference Media Days.
It starts easily enough for fullback Jay Prosch, defensive end Dee Ford and cornerback Chris Davis. They sit down to do short interviews along "Radio Row" on the first floor of the Wynfrey Hotel. Ford happens upon a piano and wows bystanders with his musical ability. Then they go to the lobby to sign autographs for fans before going to the suite reserved for Auburn's group to take a break before the real grind started.
Head coach Gus Malzahn, who had met with Auburn beat writers in the same room an hour earlier, walks in. He declines to settle a good-natured argument about who was best-dressed, saying "they all look sharp to me." They pose for a picture together, drink some cool water and head to the madhouse that is the hotel's second floor.
For some four hours, the three players and Malzahn do interview after interview - 14 apiece in all.
There are interviews with TV stations, interviews with CBS, ESPN Gameday, ESPNU, CSS, Fox Sports South, three SEC entities, radio interviews, and interviews in the main media room where hundreds of reporters gather.
As the players begin to make their rounds, there is immediately a glitch. The SEC provides escorts for each player. Ford's and Davis' escorts arrive. Prosch's doesn't. Taylor Bryan, accompanying Prosch for the Auburn media relations office, is finally able to get someone's attention and the problem is solved.
The first stop is in front of TV reporters from various local and regional stations. Prosch is asked why he thinks Auburn can win the Iron Bowl after losing 49-0 last season. He answers "We're getting our edge back," but then explains nobody is thinking much about the Iron Bowl at this point.
The same reporter says she's heard they have "Beat Bama" signs in their locker room. Prosch shrugs. "Always been there since I've been there," he says. "Just motivation." And then he adds a zinger.
"All I can say is get ready, because Auburn is coming."
Later, Ford is asked if he thinks Auburn-Alabama is still a rivalry. He laughs, pointing out Auburn has lost just two straight and won six straight not so long ago.
Prosch is asked about the team coming together and rallying around him when his mother died last September.
"I wasn't really close to any particular guys at that time," Prosch says. "I hadn't been here that long. When that happened, I found out that when they say the AU family they really mean it. It created a bond that wasn't there before. I really feel like I am playing with my brothers now."
Prosch seems to particularly enjoy a photo shoot done by ESPNU. It's almost like they are taking pictures for GQ or something.
Some questions, Prosch has to answer over and over again at various stops. He patiently says no one really has a good explanation for what happened last season when the Tigers went 3-9, that no one expects it to happen again, that this is a new team and a new day and the work ethic and togetherness over the summer has been remarkable.
Prosch says several times that he has been very impressed by freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson's passing ability and how he has learned so much so quickly since arriving early in the summer. "He can really sling the ball," Prosch says.
He says junior college transfer Nick Marshall's speed stands out, along with his calmness. He says returning quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace have clearly improved significantly.
"I couldn't tell you who (the starter) will be," Prosch says. "It's going to be fun to watch."
Prosch has words of praise for all three veteran running backs - Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. He says he has seen enough of the freshmen to know they have talent but not enough to know if they're ready to play.
He is really impressed with sophomore wide receiver Sammie Coates.
"Sammie Coates is a prototypical freak guy," Prosch says. "He's going to have a monster year, I think."
At almost every stop, Prosch explains that he really does fit into Malzahn's up-tempo offense, that he thinks it is even better for him than the pro style he came to Auburn to play and that he is extremely excited.
Prosch is asked about what he would be doing if he didn't play football. He says he'd probably be in school, though he admits he's not as dedicated to academics as he perhaps he should be.
"I'd rather fish than go to class," Prosch says, smiling. Would he miss class to go fishing?
"We're not allowed to miss class," Prosch says, smiling again.
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, not that much older than Prosch, has made a big impact.
"An awesome guy," Prosch says. "I can say anything I need to say to him, but he's not going to cut me any slack on the field. He's a smart coach and a very good teacher."
And, by the way, Prosch has been extremely impressed by the Auburn defense.
"We have the talent over there to destroy offenses," Prosch says.
Asked what his goals are for the coming season, Prosch talks first about team goals and about winning games. But he has an individual goal, too.
"I want to destroy people," he says. "I want to block people harder than they've ever been blocked."
Finally, it's over. The last interview is done and it's time for the Auburn party to head back east. Prosch says it was a far more exciting experience than he anticipated.
"I didn't really realize it, but it is a huge honor," Prosch says. "I didn't realize how big of a deal it is."
For 42 players from 14 schools, it is a big deal indeed.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: