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Auburn's Jermaine Whitehead 'bounced back in best way'
Dec. 30, 2014

Jermaine White, right, leads his Auburn defensive buddies off the field after one of his interceptions

By Charles Goldberg

TAMPA, Fla.  Jermaine Whitehead could have answered a question about his season talking about his interceptions or his tackles.

He chose to answer about how he had grown up and how Auburn stuck with him.

The senior defensive back was suspended at midseason, rediscovered his game upon his return and will leave Auburn football after Thursday's Outback Bowl appreciative of a coaching staff that gave him an opportunity to finish what he started.

Whitehead said he now wants to be an example for younger players.

"It's been one of the rougher years for me, not really on the field, but off of it," he said. "I experienced something that caused me a great trauma, but I feel I bounced back in the best way. I feel the coaches had my back the whole time. I felt like one of their children they had to punish, and, looking back, I'm a man about situations and I understand every action has a reaction. That was a bad action that caused a bad reaction, but it made me a better person. I understand each situation can cause something good or bad."

Whitehead didn't go into detail about his suspension, but said Auburn taught him to face up to his mistake. He returned to the team after completing what the coaching staff had asked of him, first returning on special teams before winning his job back in the secondary.

"That's a testament that they understood I made a mistake, but they wanted me to grow from that mistake," he said. "I believe I was an example as well. I did something that was not going to be tolerated here. I had to prove I wanted to be here, especially my senior year. It's a tough feeling to miss anything your senior year.

"I've been talking to a lot of younger guys. Auburn will move on  it's a great place  but it will move on. It's going to be great before you, great while you're here and great when you leave."

Whitehead, despite missing four games and playing only special teams in two others, is second on the team with four interceptions and eighth in tackles with 28. He made his time count.

"The biggest thing for me has been the camaraderie, especially this team because I was one of the leaders. A lot of guys looked up to me. I felt the warmth of the whole team," Whitehead said.

Whitehead was a late commitment in the 2011 signing class, and played immediately.

"Coming in, you really don't know what to expect. I never had anyone to play Division I ball, so I really didn't have a clue," he said. "I came in hoping I could play. I didn't know it would be as demanding and didn't know it would be as fun as it has been. I didn't know I would have the type of year I would have here. 

"I gained a new respect for football, a new respect for people who put their all into anything. I understand the grind and hustle of each individual."

And the unpredictability of football and life. He played on a team that didn't win a conference game and, the very next year, played in the BCS title game.

"You didn't know which way things would go, but experiencing all of those things has really been a blessing," Whitehead said. "We knew we had a great team, and it paid to fight so hard and have a chance to play for it all, then this year watch it go back to like my freshman year.

"I want to leave a blessing on next year's team and not let it be a discouragement."

Whitehead said he wants to leave Auburn with a win in the Outback Bowl, then he'll take his chances trying to impress pro scouts.

"Hopefully, I'll get a shot play professional ball. I'm chasing that dream with everything in my power right now," he said.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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