AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s coaching staff has sung the praises of Jay Prosch all season.
No, the senior fullback doesn’t do anything glamorous — as the nature of the position would dictate. His blocks open running lanes for others, such as Tre Mason and Nick Marshall, to score the touchdowns and receive the accolades. Gus Malzahn made sure Prosch received his due, however, paying him the highest compliment imaginable.
Prosch, Malzahn said Monday, is “the best fullback in the country.”
When informed of his coach’s comments, Prosch didn’t deny it.
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But he didn’t embrace it, either.
“I just know one thing about myself is that I'll play extremely hard and I try to be the most physical player I can be every game,” Prosch said. “And I try not to think about any type of pain or injury but just play fearless. I think that's a lot of the reason why I'm where I am today — because of playing with that kind of mentality. I sell out for my team. When you play like that, there's no other choice but to be good at what you do. I think that's really what makes me different than other players.”
The willingness to play through pain is nothing new to football players — if anything, it’s synonymous with the game itself. Prosch was just thankful he’s never suffered any major injuries.
“It's just the total beatdown that your body takes week after week,” he said. “I mean, shoulder. Obviously I've been lucky not to have many shoulder injuries, but I think that's because I just get after it in the weight room and I have a lot of support muscle-wise.”
Even a player as highly respected as Prosch isn’t immune to criticism, though.
Down 28-21 last Saturday following a 99-yard touchdown pass by Alabama, Auburn looked to keep pace on the ensuing possession by gambling on fourth-and-one from its own 35-yard line. The play wasn’t successful, as Marshall kept it himself and was stopped by Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard for no gain.
Prosch caught some flak for it afterward, as some believed he missed his block. While he didn’t say that was the case, he acknowledge his execution on the play was lackluster.
Bottom line, he could have done far better.
“It definitely wasn't a good block,” Prosch said. “It was an option. (Marshall) could have handed the ball to Tre or run it. My job on that play was to take out the defensive end. I was obviously coming down hard and tight to try to get movement. I didn't want to let him cross my face, so I wasn't expecting Nick to be outside me. So when I hit my guy out, (Hubbard) kind of went around me and was able to make the play.”
Anyone who thought the coaching staff would lambaste Prosch’s showing on the play couldn’t be more wrong.
In fact, during film review, Prosch said it was mentioned only in passing.
For the player the Malzahn regards as the top fullback in the nation, the error was merely another sign that he can still improve.
“There's not really much to say,” Prosch said. “You just have to go off it and try to get better.”