AUBURN, Ala. — For a moment, Jay Prosch hesitated.
Asked what the “most physical game” he’s played in this season, Auburn’s starting fullback had to think about it. Finally, he answered that the Tennessee contest probably topped the list.
As if any other answer would have sufficed.
In that game, Prosch suffered both a bloody nose and black eye courtesy of an unnamed Volunteer defender. Initially, he thought his nose may have been broken. After getting it checked out, Prosch discovered it was instead a deviated septum, as well as some bent cartilage.
Known as one of the Tigers’ toughest players, he shrugged it off and said he was fine.
Heck, he enjoyed the experience.
“I saw the blood and I felt it rolling down my face, it kind of made you feel like a monster when something like that happens,” said Prosch, who stayed on the field for four more plays after it happened. “You love it. I was eating it up and the ref finally told me I had to get out of the game and I went out and the play I went out on we scored. They cleaned me up and I was out next drive. I don’t know — that’s (a) fullback for you. I enjoy it.”
His shiner occurred on the same snap.
The way Prosch described it, upon colliding with the Tennessee defender, his chin strap loosened, causing his helmet to slide up and hit him in the eye at the same time it struck him in the nose. The fact he didn’t come out until officials forced him off the field didn’t go unnoticed by the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee recalled that it looked like the senior fullback “had been in a boxing match.”
But the coaches taking note of Prosch is nothing new.
It’s everyone else who seems to overlook the things — however inglorious — Prosch does best.
“We said it a lot of times but just to the average fan, you might not see Jay,” he said. “He’s caught one touchdown, he’s caught a few balls but I’m just telling you, Jay makes a lot of things right.”
Things Prosch never had to do before he transferred from Illinois last year. With the Illini, he put his hand down, lined up and ran full speed into the nearest linebacker. His responsibilities with the Tigers are far greater.
“Now I have to worry — not worry, but — worry about getting outside of the box and keeping leverage and things like that, not just an explosive impact hit,” he said. “Staying with my guys and things like that.”
And Prosch has done those things as well as any fullback Gus Malzahn has ever coached.
“He's every bit of that and may be the best,” Auburn’s head coach said. “He does a lot of things that don't go on stats that make things go. He's extremely tough. He's very unselfish.”
Of course, that’s the type of attitude one has to have given his position. It’s a spot where touching the ball is rare, and garnering accolades even more so.
In fact, he’s still waiting for his official invite to the Senior Bowl, which is played in his hometown of Mobile, Ala. From there, his sights are set on the NFL, which he admitted he’s “trying to keep in the back of my mind” for now.
“I’ve been trying to have the best senior season I could possibly have,” he said. “Whatever that leads to is a bonus. Obviously, I want to play in the NFL. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens after the season. Still just really excited about what’s happening here at Auburn.”
It's a year that has been far beyond his wildest expectations. Last season, he slogged through the Tigers’ dismal 3-9 campaign along with the rest of the team. One year later, Auburn is 10-1 overall, with an Iron Bowl matchup against top-ranked Alabama on tap to decide the SEC West title on Nov. 30 in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Prosch said he “couldn’t ask for anything better” than how this season has unfolded.
“It’s my senior year,” he said. “It’s the best college season I’ve had since I played in college. Just with a great group of guys, great coaches and it’s outstanding, I’m loving it. I’m enjoying every second of it.”