Auburn, Ala.--A chance for a “do-over” on his senior season that was ruined by a torn Achilles tendon last year wasn’t expected, but Tez Doolittle is doing his best to take advantage of the opportunity.
The defensive lineman from Opelika High went into the 2007 campaign as a fifth-year senior. He was playing the best football of his career in practice when the injury in preseason drills last August looked like it would end his collegiate football playing days.
However, after making progress on his rehab, Doolittle decided earlier this year to appeal to an NCAA committee to be granted a sixth year of eligibility, even though that appeared to be a longshot.
“I was surprised when I heard that I got it,” he tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. “I was in Atlanta with Pat Sims when I got a call about it. I heard the voice mail and played it back and listened again. Then I started jumping up and down and Pat says, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ and I started yelling, “I got my year back, I got my year back!’ I was really excited.”
While that was the news he was hoping for, it also meant countless hours of intense rehab work, a price Doolittle has been willing to pay to play for the 2008 Auburn Tigers.
“Everything is going good,” he says. “I am getting back closer to 100 percent. I am still working on my lateral movement. I am running pretty good moving straight ahead.”
Doolittle is so serious about his workouts that he was doing extra ones on his own at a local rehab facility after getting done with his sessions on campus. “After my workout here (at the football complex), I would go up to Health Plus and work out, but I starting dropping lots of weight so they told me to drop that,” he says.
Tez Doolittle is shown during one of his summer workouts.
The lineman notes he got down to as low as 278 pounds earlier this summer, but hopes to be heavier when the season starts. “I am trying to get closer to 290,” he says. “I have been trying to eat a lot.”
Doolittle was one of the first Tigers to take advantage of Auburn’s newly remodeled training room, which includes hot and cool therapy pools. “I really like them and I use them a lot,” he points out. “I use both the hot and cold pools.”
He is taking advantage of his return to college to work on a second degree. “My first one is in criminal justice and my second one is in exercise science,” he says.
With preseason practice scheduled to start on Saturday, Doolittle is looking forward to stepping back on the football field with his teammates.
“My goal is just try to get back to 100 percent,” he points out. “I am been busting my tail to get healthy and stay healthy.
“The number one question I get is, ‘Why did you come back?’ I already had found a good job that pays good money, but to tell you the truth I am not ready for the real world--that 9-5 or 8-5 job. I still love the game. I wanted to come back and finish up things on a good note. I just want to have a good, solid year and see where that takes me to.”
In addition to Sims, who turned pro after his junior season, the Tigers must replace another starter on the defensive line, Josh Thompson, who was the number one noseguard in 2007 and a good one.
“We are kind of young on the defensive front except for a couple of guys like Sen’Derrick Marks and A.C. (Antonio Coleman),” Doolittle says. “Also, Antoine Carter played some last year as a freshman. I wanted to come back and add some experience. I was here for the undefeated season in 2004. I am just trying to bring some of that back to these guys and try to do it again.”
Doolittle expects he will play at noseguard this season. In the past he has also played tackle. Junior Jermarcus Ricks goes into the preseason as the favorite to win the starting job at noseguard, but must hold off a challenge from Zach Clayton, a sophomore who like Doolittle was a star at Opelika High.
Doolittle notes that it will take some time to get back to where he was prior to his injury last August. “I was 285 or 290, which was the right weight,” he says. “I had gotten buffed and I was ready. I had hurt it (Achilles) a little the previous two-a-days and then last August I really hurt it.”
If the lineman can return to his pre-injury level of play, that will be a big bonus for the defense.
“I feel like I am getting better every day and that drives me,” he says. “I never come in to workouts feeling, ‘Hey, I don’t want to do this or I want to sit out today.’ I always want to come in and want to get better.”
2008 Inside the Auburn Tigers Football Guide
Game Of My Life Auburn
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