Trio Will Return To Auburn For Senior Seasons

Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Carlos Rogers talk about their decisions to return to Auburn.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers got some good news and even more good news on Wednesday night as running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown along with defensive back Carlos Rogers announced their intentions to return to Auburn for their senior football seasons at a press conference at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

"What a great day for Auburn," Coach Tommy Tuberville said. "Obviously it's a relief because I know how these guys have struggled. I have watched them over the last month.

"I've told all of them all along what we would do is stay out of it as much as possible, but give them as much information as we possibly could. This shows you the type of young men these three are and the type of families that they have and how close they are.

"This was a very intelligent decision on all their parts. They took every piece of information they could get, they took and it and they weighed it and they waited until the last minute.

"It's real good to have these guys coming back," Tuberville adds. "They are all three good football players. All three could have gone to the NFL and done well, but I think they looked at their team, their teammates, what they wanted to accomplish as a team and individuals. Also coming back to school and finishing their degrees and it's fun to work with guys like this. It makes you feel good about athletics when you are working with three kids like this."

Ronnie Brown, Carlos Rogers and Carnell Williams following the announcement that all three are coming back for their senior seasons.

A first-team All-SEC performer this past season, Williams rushed for 1,307 yards and 17 touchdowns on 241 carries. For his career he has 2,666 yards and 33 touchdowns on 502 carries. Williams needs just 13 touchdowns to tie Bo Jackson for the all-time mark for an Auburn player. He says the lure of chasing the Heisman Trophy and some unfinished team goals were just too much to pass up.

"I have decided to come back for my senior season," Williams says. "I had an evaluation of the second round and I was hearing things as far as the first or second, but I just feel like as a team and a player at Auburn we still haven't accomplished some of the things I would like to accomplish as a player and also with my teammates. I'll also be close to graduating and that played a major role in my decision, too."

An All-SEC performer in his own right as a sophomore, Brown rushed for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns despite not starting until halfway through the season. A part-time player much of his career, Brown has still managed to rush for 1,794 yards and 20 touchdowns in three seasons. He says that he's looking forward to being a bigger part of the offense and hopes to improve his play and draft status with in 2004.

"I've decided to come back and play my senior season," Brown says. "Throughout the process I have kind of gone back and forth not knowing what to do because I have never had to make a decision like this. This is one that will stick with you for life.

"I kind of thought about that and with me graduating in May and having a free season to worry about football, I thought about that and that weighed more in my decision."

Sharing time with Williams since he's been at Auburn, Brown says that he's not concerned about getting enough carries to improve the projected second or third round that the NFL told him this year. He says he believes that the end of the season shows what kind of offense this team can have when using both runners effectively.

"That weighed into my decision regarding both of us playing the same position," Brown says. "If he decided to come back or not. That was a major factor in me making my decision. I feel pretty comfortable with the way things went in the bowl game and with our coaching staff. Hopefully, I'll come back and everything will go real smooth next year."

Williams reiterated the words of Brown when he closed out the press conference. Close friends and perhaps each other's biggest fan, both Williams and Brown showed why their teammates have the utmost respect for their ability both on and off the field.

"When you have two guys like us both of us want the ball," Williams says. "I have to accept the fact that I'm going to have to share time and I'm cool with that. I think in the long run it's going to keep me fresh and healthy. I feel good about it."

Auburn's top cover man since he arrived on campus, Rogers played through injuries as a junior and finished the year with 29 tackles and one interception. His best season came as a sophomore when he had four interceptions and 47 tackles. For his career Rogers has been in on 134 tackles and five interceptions. He will enter his senior season as a four-year starter and is expected to see some time at free safety in addition to his duties at cornerback.

"After talking with my family and friends, people are very close to me like my coaches, Coach Chizik and Coach Tubs, the best of my abilities will be to come back and play my senior season," Rogers says. "I have a chance to get close to my graduation if I finish this summer out. I'm trying to prove to myself, prove to the world, my coaches and other teammates that I am one of the top corners in the nation. There are things that I'm going to have to do to get there."

Saying he didn't make his decision until Wednesday morning after sleeping on it and praying about it, Williams looked like a happy camper as he talked about some of the things he feels like he needs to improve on before he's ready to take the next step into the NFL. While he hopes for that chance, he says if it doesn't happen then he's fine with that as well and his words summed up what three true Auburn men had to say Wednesday.

"I'm thinking that I'm healthy now and I should probably make that jump," Williams says. "But I thought about things and I feel like if it's meant to be that I play on the next level if I come back or stay it's going to happen. I couldn't pass up the chance to stay in college, be with these guys and live the college live which I love right now. I couldn't pass that up to go to the next level."

All three players will join the Tigers as they begin spring practice Feb. 28 and the annual A-Day game is scheduled to take place on March 28.

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