AUBURN, Ala. — The name of Kamryn Pettway’s game for Auburn football in 2016 was power. He led the SEC in rushing yards per game at more than 240 pounds and famously said “nobody really wants to tackle me” after a hard-hitting, 236-yard performance at Ole Miss.
This year, greater speed is on the mind of the fullback-turned-feature running back. His Auburn position coach thinks he could achieve that goal without cutting weight from his bruising frame.
“We want to see what he can handle,” Auburn running backs coach Tim Horton said. “Can he still play at the same speed at 242 pounds? That’s something we’re in the process of figuring out. Based on what I’ve seen this spring, I think he can handle it.”
Early in spring practice, Pettway said he wanted to lose weight over the offseason. He said he would be a faster running back at 235 pounds.
“My weight now is 238,” Pettway said on March 4. “I like to play around 235 on a bad day. So get down 10 pounds from last season.”
But a few weeks later, Horton sounded open to the idea of keeping Pettway above 240 pounds.
The veteran running backs coach attributed Pettway’s speed progress over the offseason to his work ethic. Pettway decided to stay in school after his redshirt sophomore season, and he hasn’t slacked off since making that call.
“He’s a worker,” Horton said. “He’ll get in that weight room and work. He’s a good practice player. He’s very conscientious. He knows what’s going on. … He’s into football. I think that he’s got a lot of maturity, and I think he’s got a chance to have a special year.”
Pettway rushed for 1,224 yards in the 2016 season despite not getting a single carry in 4 different games, missing 3 of them because of injury. He averaged nearly 6 yards per carry — a high number, especially for someone labeled as a power back.
If Pettway would’ve maintained his average across all 13 games in 2016, he would have finished the season with 1,591 rushing yards. That would have been enough for a top 10 finish nationally in total rushing.
Now, in 2017, Pettway is eyeing a healthier and faster season. He opened with 30-1 odds for the 2017 Heisman Trophy last week.
Winning college football’s most prestigious award is a lofty goal of his.
“My goal is to just help my team the best way I can, and also, it’s just been a dream for me growing up,” Pettway said after the annual A-Day scrimmage, which he sat out as a healthy scratch. “I always wanted to win a Heisman.”
Horton is ready to see if Pettway can follow up his stellar sophomore season with an even bigger junior one. Horton has coached backs of all shapes and sizes to strong second campaigns. He thinks Pettway has what it takes.
“It’s a great challenge for him to see if he can do it again,” Horton said. “Because in my career, when I [have] a back have a really good season the year before, can they come back and have one better than the last? The last time I was in the situation, it worked out real well.”