Auburn, Ala.—When Auburn hits the field Saturday at 1 p.m. it will be the final home game for 13 seniors that have been a part of some great times and also some struggles as Tigers. One of the most pivotal players in the class is running back Onterio McCalebb. One of the most versatile players in Auburn history for his running ability, kickoff returns, catching passes, and play covering kicks on special teams, the speedster said it’s tough to think that his last game in Jordan-Hare Stadium is quickly approaching.
“It’s finally coming to an end,” McCalebb said. “I feel like it came really fast for me. Saturday we’re going to go out there and try to win a game. It’s going to be my last game in that stadium and I’m going to miss it. I love it and all the Auburn fans and all the coaches.”
Part of a senior class that has 32 wins in its career, McCalebb will leave his Auburn career as one of the top multi-purpose players not only for the Tigers, but in SEC history. He’s just the second player in league history with more than 2,000 yards rushing, 1,000 kick return yards, and 500 receiving yards. He also ranks first among active players in career rushing yards per carry, with a 6.40 average in 48 games.
With all those numbers to fall back on, McCalebb said it’s one play that comes to mind when he looks back on his career at Auburn.
Tied with LSU 17-17 with just over six minutes left in the game in 2010, Auburn started a possession on its own 10-yard line needing to drive the length of the field to take the lead. Following a 16-yard rush by quarterback Cam Newton and a four-yard gain by Michael Dyer, it was McCalebb’s turn to take center stage.
Taking the handoff he cut outside and was quickly off to the races. Beating LSU defensive back Patrick Peterson to the goal line, McCalebb’s 70-yard touchdown run proved to be the game winner for Auburn and one of the signature plays of the year on the way to the BCS National Championship.
“That whole year we were bouncing back from number one to number two,” McCalebb said. “We were undefeated and everybody else was undefeated. We kept bouncing back and forth and never could just sit in that number one spot. Finally when we got there people were saying we were going to lose to this team or that team. We went out there and proved everybody wrong.
“We had LSU coming in and everybody said we were going to lose. That whole year we were fighting and it came down to everyone doing their job. The ball was in my hands and everybody did their job so I had to take it the distance.”
McCalebb races for his touchdown against LSU
Going from the national title less than two years ago to now having one of the worst seasons in school history is a tough thing to handle for McCalebb and his fellow seniors. While he knows the fans aren’t happy with how things have gone he believes this group will still be remembered for what it has accomplished rather than how it finished.
“I don’t think fans are going to base our careers off this season,” McCalebb said. “I have been playing ball here since I was a freshman. As soon as I stepped on campus I have been playing ball. I love the Auburn fans and I know they love me.”
That love for Auburn is something that shines through from McCalebb. Coming to Auburn has a shy running back that let his game to the talking, he will leave the Plains as one of the leaders for the Tigers and a veteran players look up to. He said he’ll also leave with something not many others across the country will ever have, a ring.
“I believe after we play Alabama I’m going to be able to forget about this year and move on because I’m going to have to move on with my life,” McCalebb said. “I’m going to be out in the real word and trying to do the things I want to do. I definitely didn’t want to have a season like this, but you win some and you lose some. Ten years from now I’m going to look back and be able to say what a lot of people can’t say, I won a national championship.”
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