His work ethic to get back on the playing field is probably matched only by his faith and support from so many. It wasn't until shortly before fall practice opened this year that he was cleared to play.
"It is definitely worth it (coming back from injury)," Etheridge agreed as he surveyed the celebration scene on the field and in the stands moments after the win that put Auburn at 13-0 and assured a berth in the BCS National Championship Game next month against Oregon in Glendale, Ariz.
"This win means a lot to the university and everyone one of us on this team. It feels great to come to the Georgia Dome and play in front of all our fans. It feels great to win the SEC Championship and have a chance to play for the National Championship."
Etheridge, whose seven tackles was second to T'Sharvan Bell's nine stops for the Tigers against South Carolina, had a brief scare when he went down keeping the Gamecocks' Marcus Lattimore out of the end zone. However, Etheridge trotted off the field after being down briefly and returned the next series.
In other news and notes:
*Gene Chizik's Auburn record improved to 21-5.
*Cam Newton's 2010 SEC Championship Game Most Valuable Player performance in Auburn's 56-17 victory over South Carolina stands as one of the most impressive in the title game's history. He accounted for six touchdowns--four passing and two rushing--to share the championship game record with Florida's Heisman Trophy quarterback Danny Wuerffel in 1996. Ironically, Wuerffel played for current South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier at Florida.
*Newton's other totals include 17 of 28 passing for 335 yards with no interceptions go with his four touchdown tosses. He also rushed 14 times for 73 yards, including the two touchdowns.
*Considered the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy that will be announced December 11 in New York City, Newton has rushed for 20 touchdowns and passed for 28 scores. He also has a touchdown reception for 49 total touchdowns this season. He is the second player in NCAA history to rush and pass for 20 or more touchdowns each in the same the season. The other player to accomplish that feat is Tim Tebow during his Heisman Trophy winning season at Florida.
*Auburn's 56 points and eight touchdowns are both SEC Championship Game records. The combined 73 points are the second most in the game's history, behind 75 in Florida's 45-30 victory over Alabama in 1996.
*The Tigers' 589 yards total offense if also an SEC Championship Game record, breaking Auburn's previous record of 559 yards against Tennessee in 2004. Also a record Saturday was Auburn's 8.29 yards a play.
*Newton's 408 yards total offense is second only to former Tiger quarterback Jason Campbell who had 431 yards against Tennessee in 2004 title contest won 38-28 by Auburn.
*Senior placekicker Wes Byrum set a championship game record with eight extra points. His only field goal attempt was no good after ricocheting off the right upright.
*Auburn sophomore defensive back T'Sharvan Bell is the seventh player in SEC Championship Game history to return an interception for a touchdown with his 10-yard pick and return in the third quarter.