Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics
Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway has big goals for 2017.

Kamryn Pettway’s stated goal for 2017: Break Auburn football’s all-time rushing record

AUBURN, Ala. — Kamryn Pettway turned quite a few heads following Auburn’s win over Ole Miss last season when he bluntly stated that “no one really wanted to tackle” him.

After breaking out in 2016, the bruising running back has more choice words regarding his aspirations for the coming season.

“My individual goal is to break the school rushing record,” Pettway said following Auburn’s evening practice on Wednesday. “But whatever I can do to help my team out is the biggest goal.”

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The Tigers have churned out successful running backs for decades. It’s virutally impossible to talk Auburn history without mentioning greats like Bo Jackson, Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and a winding list of others.

The current single-season record was set by Tre Mason (1,816) in 2013. Jackson holds the all-time career record, racking up 4,303 from 1982-85. Still, Pettway is not deterred.

“Oh yeah, I know I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” he said. “But with hard work, I think I can get it.”

So do others.

“I fully believe in him,” running back Kerryon Johnson said. “You look at the things he did last year — I mean, 1,100 yards or something like that. And he had 700 in like three games.”

To be exact, Pettway totaled 1,224 yards in nine games. He former H-back didn’t play in Auburn’s season-opener against Clemson, carried 17 times for 61 yards against LSU, and racked up 17 yards in an Iron Bowl loss to Alabama.

“You start looking into it, if you give him a full season, it could definitely happen,” Johnson said. “I hope it does. I really do.”

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Staying healthy, something Pettway has worked hard at this summer, is the key.

The goal was to pick up speed by losing weight, something teammates gave him grief about at times last year. And Pettway did it. He said he’s currently at 240 pounds, dropping 5 pounds since the end of the year.

Picking up speed also helped him trim down, going from around 11 percent to 8 percent body fat. Most importantly, Pettway feels more explosive — and that’s bad news for SEC defenses.

Auburn will use more run-pass option plays under Lindsey, so the 6-foot, 240-pound back could end up with a few dangerous mismatches.

Johnson, a fan of the wheel route, cringed and hesitated briefly at the thought of a cornerback squaring up with his teammate, who he says “will score every time.”

“Look, I … ” Johnson said. “If the corner steps in his way good for him. Respect. But I don’t think there’s going to be many corners out there that can stop him one on one, squared up. There’s very few. Very, very few.”

This season also will be different for other reasons. First of all, Pettway won’t be starting out at H-back or spending time at any other position. The starting job, as he proved in nine games last year, is his.

That confidence has helped him step into more of a leadership role with Auburn’s mostly unproven rushing group. Now, Pettway is free to focus on trying to become one of the best running backs in Auburn football history. And nothing will stand in his way.

“I feel like I can,” Pettway said. “Just like I said, hard work and dedication and doing what I know how to do, I think I can do it.”