AUBURN, Ala. — Kamryn Pettway isn’t a typical college football player. He weighs 240 pounds, yet he plays running back. He was a first-team All-SEC player, yet he only played in eight games this season.
The redshirt sophomore also has a lot more to worry about than the typical college football player, too. Pettway is married and has a child. He has a family to provide for financially.
So when the opportunity to leave school early for the NFL Draft opened up after his breakout campaign, Pettway had a tough decision to make. He announced his decision to stay at Auburn last week, and he opened up about the process Thursday.
“My main reason was to get my degree,” Pettway said. “For two, I feel like I could help contribute to my team another year.”
Pettway rushed for 1,123 yards and 7 touchdowns this season in just eight games of action as running back. He didn’t record a carry in the season opener against Clemson and missed three games due to quad injuries. Pettway ranked 12th nationally in the regular season for rushing yards per game.
With those numbers, Pettway wanted to see what he could do with a full season of work as a top running back.
“Yeah, it’s my degree for one, but I want to have a good, healthy season,” Pettway said. “A full, complete season.”
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn loved the news he heard from his breakout back last week, calling Pettway one of his leaders for 2017.
“He’ll have a chance to next year — obviously staying healthy — there’s a chance he could have a super season,” Malzahn said. “He’ll be one of our leaders, too, coming back. So, I think it’s a very good thing for us next year.”
Pettway said he had the support of his parents and his wife no matter which way he decided to go with his future.
The Prattville, Ala., native wasn’t expected to be in this position several months ago. He moved from H-back to running back — his natural position from his high school days — during preseason practices but was firmly behind fellow sophomore Kerryon Johnson.
Pettway rushed for more than 120 yards in back-to-back games against Arkansas State and Texas A&M. Three weeks later, he rushed for 169 yards on a whopping 39 carries after Johnson went down with injury in a road win against Mississippi State.
From there, Pettway rushed for at least 170 yards in three straight games, including a 236-yard performance against Ole Miss. He was named first-team All-SEC by both the AP and the league’s coaches last week.
“For him to step up and play running back and really only be healthy or starting running back for eight of those games and be first-team All-SEC, I think that says a lot,” senior left guard Alex Kozan said. “It says all that needs to be said. He’s a hell of a player.”
Those numbers garnered attention from several NFL draft analysts, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.
“It was nice to be in this predicament, being able to choose if I want to leave or stay,” Pettway said. “But like I said, I think coming back would be the best option for me.”
Pettway said he’s 100 percent health-wise after playing in the Iron Bowl at “90 percent.” He missed two straight games after pulling his quad at the end of a long fourth-quarter run against Vanderbilt.
Now that he knows for sure where he’ll be next year, Pettway is looking forward to using the Sugar Bowl matchup against Oklahoma as a launching pad for 2017.
“I can run full speed, so I’m just ready for the bowl game,” Pettway said. “I think this is going to be a big momentum game for us for the 2017 season, just to see where we’re at.”