By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Two knee surgeries, five years, big wins and now one last game for the Auburn Tigers. Defensive back Josh Holsey has seen it all.
"I kind of think I got another year left, but I'm sure once I try to walk off the field they will snatch my stuff. It will kind of hit me a little more then," Holsey says.
"It's been a great ride, the four or five years here. It feels like eight, but these five years have been great. I thank the Auburn family for having me, I thank each and every coach. Everybody at Auburn has been great. It's a loving environment. I'm really going to miss being around it."
Holsey's knee surgeries have been documented. He had one in 2013, another in 2015. He missed half the 2013 season. He missed most of 2015.
But he's been healthy this season, says he'll overcome his latest "little tweak," and will help lead Auburn into the Sugar Bowl where the Tigers will play Oklahoma on Jan. 2. Holsey's bounce-back senior year includes a team-best three interceptions.
He also says he's "learned a lot" about himself at Auburn.
"I learned I'm a real true team player, I'm a great guy in my heart," he said. "I bounced back from a lot of injuries. I bounced back from a lot of things personally. Through all that I just kept fighting. I got a great support staff around me.
"With me, I smile the most on the team. It's big for me to just be out there with these guys and be in the Sugar Bowl, to finally be playing again, just to be running around with me teammates is fun with me. I learned a lot about myself through all these past years with coaching changes, with injuries and all this type of stuff. It's going to help me in the long run. I'm kind of glad that stuff happened to me because you learn lot about yourself you didn't know before."
Linebacker Tre' Williams called Holsey a "great player."
"What makes him great is that we don't see the plays he makes, we see the person that he is," Williams said. "At the beginning of the season Coach asked Josh what does he want from the season. All he wanted to do was play. All he asked for was to play. We can see at practice, he works hard, he perfects his craft every day. He's a great leader.
"Out there on the field he plays with poise and confidence. He really got us two Ws on his own. That really tells you a lot about him, even coming off those two ACL injuries. He comes back stronger than ever and he's playing his best football right now."
Two of Holsey's interceptions came in critical moments. His interception against Ole Miss at the Auburn 28-yard line was "probably the play of the game," said Gus Malzahn after the Tigers won. The next week, he intercepted Vanderbilt at the Auburn 18-yard line with 36 seconds left in a 23-16 win.
Holsey isn't the only person leaving Auburn's secondary. Auburn defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff has been named the new defensive coordinator at Ole Miss, but he's staying with his players to coach in the Sugar Bowl.
"He's always been one of those guys where he doesn't leave unless the job is done," Holsey said. "He harps on finishing the job so that was kind of big for us for him to stay and coach us for the next few weeks and get some knowledge out of him while we have him around before he goes. He's going to do a great job over there, but it's going to be great to have him around for a few more weeks before he heads out."
Holsey, the veteran, has seen this before. He's gone through coaches at his position. He said he's telling the younger players it's OK.
"I kind of told them it is a business. Things happen. Changes are a part of life," Holsey said. "We're happy for him. Nobody is too down. You can't pass up an opportunity like that to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC, so everybody is happy. They are embracing it and they're going to just get ready to come back and keep working. That's kind of the message I told them. You can't really harp on it but just keep getting prepared for whoever comes in."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine