By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Kamryn Pettway says he's not leaving for the NFL after the Sugar Bowl. He says he still has things to accomplish at Auburn.
The Tigers' leading rusher says he'll return to Auburn for his fourth season for two good reasons: "My main reason was to get my degree. Two, I feel like I can help contribute to my team another year."
Pettway, an H-back who didn't get a carry last season, burst on the scene as a tailback this season and was the SEC's runaway rushing leader after a big October. He suffered a leg injury that cost him two games that limited him against Alabama, but he still leads Auburn with 1,123 rushing yards, and his 124.8 yards per game are tops in the Southeastern Conference.
He'll take that into Auburn's Sugar Bowl appearance against Oklahoma on Jan. 2.
Pettway is married and has a young daughter, so weighing his options proved to be "a tough decision."
"But at the end of the day, I want to leave Auburn with a degree. I love this place. Coming back was not a bad idea for me."
Pettway, who'll be a fourth-year junior next year, said he didn't bother to file papers with the NFL to see where he might have been drafted. Instead, he said he wants to show one and all what he can do in a healthy season. He was healthy in October, all right, when he rushed for 770 yards. But he rushed for only 17 yards in Auburn's last three games after suffering a quad injury late in the ninth game of the season.
That played in his decision to return.
"I feel like I'm capable of doing a lot more than I did this year," Pettway said.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had predicted Pettway would have been one of the Top 12 running backs in the draft.
"Hearing that praise made me feel good about myself and made me feel like if I come back I can do even more than that, be better than that," Pettway said.
"I think coming will be the best option for me."
Pettway says he remembers suffering the quad injury late in the game against Vanderbilt. "It was real painful when it first happened, I heard it pop and I thought I had a cramp. Then, it popped again so I knew something serious."
He sat out the next two games, and was limited to 17 yards against Alabama. Other SEC running backs passed him in total rushing yards, but not yards per game. And now Pettway says he'll be healthy for the Sugar Bowl. He said he became sure of that when Auburn began bowl practice Wednesday.
"I’m 100 percent now. I can run full speed. I'm just ready for a good bowl game."
Pettway said "deep down," he always believed he could be a productive college back.
"But everybody else hadn't had the chance to see it. I just feel like I needed the opportunity to show it."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine
Running back Kamryn Pettway says he's returning to Auburn to get his degree and help the Tigers another year. Video... pic.twitter.com/VNj1Pq7XsU
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) December 15, 2016