Only somebody forgot to tell that to junior tackle Jamar Travis. Slowed much of his early career after injuring his knee in high school, Travis played only sparingly his first two seasons with much of that coming on special teams.
It was there that he made the biggest play of his career to this point, and it came against Oregon in the title game. Playing on the punt team he made an open field tackle on speedster Cliff Williams and he said that play gave him the confidence he needed to make a push this fall.
"I can still remember it," Travis said. "That night I got a million calls from back home from people that saw it. Coming from a small town (Brewton) little things like that mean a lot. I just try to make my city proud."
That's one of the goal for Travis this fall as he pushes to get into the playing rotation at tackle. While he doesn't have much more playing experience on defense than the true freshmen, he said just being at Auburn gives him a leg up in terms of what he's learned.
"It has been pretty hard," Travis said of watching from the sidelines. "I have been blessed to come up under guys like Nick Fairley and Mike Blanc, and they taught me a lot. Then, being that we had a great offensive line last year, I have learned a lot. They taught me a lot.
"I'm just fighting," he added. "There are so many opportunities for everybody, young or old players. I'm just going in fighting and competing for a spot, just going hard."
Noticeably slowed by his injuries early in his career at Auburn, Travis began to show more and more of his quickness and athleticism late in the 2010 season. That has continued into this preseason and one of the reasons why is because of his work in the weight room.
"I have improved a lot I think," Travis said. "That's especially true of summer workouts working with Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall). I have gotten a lot better. I think I have a better work ethic. I go a lot harder and I know I can push a lot harder now."
It's still not a done deal that Travis will see a lot of reps once the game gets underway. Gabe Wright, Angelo Blackson, Jabrian Niles and Devaunte Sigler have all come in and showed the capabilities to get the job done at times during the camp. Meanwhile Travis has flown under the radar and just continuously worked to improve his game. He said that has given him motivation all fall just to become a more complete player.
"You read and hear things like ‘we've got a lot of freshmen coming in and looking for starting spots', but it's all how you look at it," Travis said. "You've got come in confident and ready to play. That motivated me, especially in summer workouts. They are eager too because they know we have no starting defensive linemen back except for Nosa Eguae. We know we have to work hard because they have a chance and we have a chance."
Playing for W.S. Neal High, Travis followed in the footsteps of longtime friend Jared Cooper when he signed with the Tigers out of high school. With both of them now in line for their first real playing time on the Plains he said he couldn't be happier.
"It's a small town and the reason I came to Auburn had a lot to do with Jared," Travis said. "He told me it had a lot to do with family and it's just like it is at home. We're from a small town so we're trying to make it happen."
When Auburn takes the field on opening day there will a lot of excited young players that will be getting ready to begin their careers with the Tigers, but it's doubtful any will be more excited than #74 when it comes his time to get in the game. He said all he can do right now is keep pushing until that moment comes.
"I'm pretty confident I'm going to play," Travis said. "It's still open right now. All of the players still have a chance. Everybody is going hard, just competing."