By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. -While playing offense and defense is not uncommon in high school -- especially at smaller schools -- it's practically unheard of in the Southeastern Conference.
Johnathan "Rudy" Ford turned back the clock Saturday, rushing for the first time in more than three years, gaining 6 yards on two carries. Ford added his first career reception, a 25-yard gain, flashing back to his high school days.
"Definitely did," Ford said. "Brought back some great memories. It was really fun. I'm just blessed for the opportunity that Coach gave me. Just really thankful for it."
Adding offense to his roles as a defensive back and return specialist required Ford to spend extra time preparing.
"I just really like to focus. It could be a little complicated," he said. "But I just really like to dial in on what they've got me doing and execute those plays."
Injuries to Auburn's running backs forced Ford, a two-way star at New Hope High School, into emergency duty in the backfield.
"It just shows my versatility," he said. "It allows Coach to use me in different areas that the team needs."
Ford, Auburn's leading tackler in 2014 and 2015, added 3 more stops to his stats in the Tigers' 55-0 shutout against Alabama A&M.
"That was real big for us," he said. "Defense executed plays and we got the job done. Coach Steele, he really loved that. We wanted to do this thing for him. We've been trying to turn our defense around from the past years."
Ford, along with his fellow seniors, was honored in a pre-game ceremony.
"I just got really speechless," he said. "The years went by really quick, really fast. I love the crowd. I love all the fans. Just thankful for the opportunity to come to Auburn and blessed to be here."
The Tigers will next head to Tuscaloosa in search of win No. 9.
"We're going to go with whatever the coaches have planned for us," he said. "We'll execute the game plan. That's what we're going to focus on from here on out.
"We weren't looking ahead to Alabama yet. We wanted to focus on our defense. Make sure we had guys tuned in, and just keep growing as a defensive unit."
In all, 26 Tigers registered defensive statistics against the Bulldogs.
"Some of the young guys got to play. That was great for them," Ford said. "They got a chance to go in front of their families and play so that was really big."
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) November 20, 2016
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer