Just a little more than a year after suffering a serious neck and spine injury playing for the Auburn Tigers vs. Ole Miss, Etheridge was on the field at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., in a key role at the BCS Championship Game where he had an interception.
When he was injured against Ole Miss the situation was so serious that there was a major question whether or not he would ever be able to play football again, much less at the level he and his unbeaten Tigers performed at on their way to winning the BCS title with a 22-19 victory over Oregon.
"It feels so good right now just to be a champion," says Etheridge, a fifth-year senior. "This means so much to us, especially the seniors.
Etheridge, who has been a key performer on the defense the past four seasons, says he likes the effort he saw from the Tigers in the victory over a high-scoring Oregon team that was averaging right at 50 points per game before facing Auburn.
"It feels so good to hold a great offense like Oregon to 19 points," Etheridge says. "It was a great game. We came out playing lights out from the first play to the last play."
In addition to his interception, the senior made three tackles and deflected two Oregon passes.
Etheridge gave his coaches a scare when he went down during the game, but the problem turned out to be a minor one and he was soon back on the field. "I was cramping," Etheridge explains. "I got sick before the game and lost a lot of fluid. I was able to recover and come back out and play."
Etheridge and the Tigers were cheered on by a huge group of fans who made the trip to Arizona for the BCS Championship Game. They also received big welcomes when their charter flight arrived in Montgomery on Tuesday evening and on Tuesday night when their buses arrived on the Auburn campus.
Etheridge and the Tigers will be honored again on Saturday, Jan. 22nd in a ceremony at 1 p.m. scheduled for Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Etheridge (left) leads the crowd in a "War Eagle" on Tuesday night at the Auburn football complex.
The senior safety says he appreciates having the opportunity to play football on the 2010 team. Winning the SEC Championship made it even more special. Adding the national title is everything was the perfect finish, the senior says.
"It feels so good," he points out. "I was blessed to be able to play in the national championship game. I am going to cherish our championship because it doesn't get any better than this."