Limping across the finish line wasn’t the way Kamryn Pettway wanted to be remembered on the Plains.
It was one of the factors weighing on Pettway’s mind during Auburn’s recent downtime, which he used to contemplate his future.
Few pegged the running back turned fullback turned running back with zero career carries as a realistic NFL draft prospect coming into the 2016 season, but that’s what he is with a month until the deadline for underclassman to declare for the draft.
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projected Pettway as a mid-round pick in his most recent rankings. A contract for players taken in the fourth round last year was worth upwards of $3 million.
Pettway, who is married with a one-year-old daughter, faced what he described as a nice predicament — return to the program he loves for at least one more year or take a shot at his lifelong dream.
“I think he toyed with the possibility,” Kamryn’s father Orlando Pettway said Thursday night.
Kamryn Pettway announced his comeback with a simple tweet last week.
“For all of the Auburn fans asking I will be back next season. I have some unfinished business!” Pettway posted.
The unfinished business had as much to do with work in the classroom as it did on the football field. Pettway is on track to graduate over the summer with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.
“It was a tough decision, but at the end of the day I want to leave Auburn with a degree,” Pettway said after practice Thursday. “I love this place. Coming back was not a bad idea for me.”
Pettway sees a future in coaching according to his father. Kamryn’s plan is to start taking classes towards a master’s degree in education in the fall.
Family considerations played a role in his deliberations, but the Pettway’s worked together to solve the main stumbling block in the way of his return.
With Kamryn Pettway’s wife in school, his daughter spent a few nights a week with his parents in Montgomery.
“Kamryn wanted his daughter with him at Auburn on a daily basis,” Orlando Pettway said. “He needed that. We got everything in place for daycare for them. It was the only thing he wanted for him and his wife. They are not hurting for anything, so that was what he needed.”
Pettway spent the final month of the season hobbled with a quad injury. He couldn’t practice for weeks and missed two of the Tigers’ final three regular season games including a trip to Athens for the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.
When Pettway did return to the lineup for the Iron Bowl, he wasn’t 100 percent. It showed in the final box score with Pettway’s final line of 12 carries for 17 yards.
The pedestrian output was a far cry from the dominant numbers the third-year sophomore put up at midyear, which included a stretch of four straight 150-plus yard performances.
Pettway’s dream season turned into the ultimate missed opportunity. He went from the SEC’s leading rusher to a non-factor in Auburn’s most important game of the season.
“There’s no question it fueled Kamryn,” Orlando Pettway said. “He wants a chance to get Alabama at 100 percent. There’s no question.”
Kamryn Pettway didn’t call out specific opponents, but acknowledged the end of the season didn’t quite go as planned.
“I feel like I’m capable of doing a lot more than I did this year,” Pettway said.
Pettway came close to proving he’s the best back in the conference, but fell short of making the statement he wanted.
“He has his goals and he’s all about reaching those goals,” Orlando Pettway said. “He’ll make it to the NFL one day. There’s no rush.”
“It’s time now”
Two-plus weeks off gave Pettway time to heal up. He returned to the practice field Wednesday and Thursday with no limitations.
“I’ve been feeling fine recently, but I didn’t know until I started running out there at practice,” Pettway said.
Pettway said he is back at “full speed” for the first time since injuring his quad on Nov. 5.
“I’d never had a quad injury,” Pettway said. “I didn’t even know you could pull a quad actually.”
Pettway could even be a step quicker than he was the last time fans saw him. The running back has dropped eight pounds — he’s down to 232 — since the end of the regular season. Auburn coaches wanted Pettway to drop 10 pounds for the spring.
“He looks ready to roll,” Orlando Pettway said.
Auburn’s improved overall health has given the team a much-needed morale boost after a disappointing finish to the regular season.
“It’s a different vibe we have going right now,” Pettway said. “We know everybody is healthy. Everybody is moving around and flying around. We feel good going into the bowl game.”
Pettway sees the Sugar Bowl as a way to get a running start on his lofty 2017 goals.
“It would mean a lot to us because we fought as hard as we could and earned it as our motto says,” Pettway said.
The Pettway file
- Pettway rushed for 1,123 yards this season with an average of 6.07 yards per carry
- The running back finished sixth overall in the SEC in total yards, but first in yards per game (124.8)
- Pettway had six 100-yard performances in nine games with a career high of 236 yards against Ole Miss
- The third-year sophomore is the 27th 1,000-yard rusher in Auburn history