Auburn, Ala.--For tailback Kenny Irons the 2006 season has been one of patience and frustration. Injured for much of the season with a variety of ailments, Irons has toughed it out in SEC contests while taking it easy in non-conference games against Buffalo, Tulane and most recently Arkansas State.
This week it's back into the conference for Irons and the Tigers as they prepare for the Georgia Bulldogs. The game is huge for Auburn and also for Irons because being from Dacula, Ga. this is the game of the year for Irons. Because of that he says that no matter how he feels on Saturday he's going to tough it out because it's his last chance to face the Bulldogs.
"It's pretty big," Irons says. "Me being plagued with injuries all season and being able to play my home state school at home in Jordan-Hare Stadium and it being my last game, it means a lot. I just have to go out there and be tough. When I go up against this Georgia defense I just have to go out there and run and not worry about the injuries. I just have to go out there and play ball. It means so much to me."
Irons is looking for a strong finish to the season beginning this week against Georgia.
This season Irons has carried the ball 145 times for 687 yards and three touchdowns despite the injuries. While it's not the year he had hoped for Irons has still been solid when needed most for the Tigers. He says that because the injuries have been to his legs it has kept him from really turning it loose like he was able to do last season.
"It's not like me to miss so many games because of an injury. Usually I would just play right through it but my strength is my legs. When I get any type of injury I'm just so cautious. If it was a hand or an arm I would just keep going but it's my leg and that gets me going. This week means so much to me. I just have to play."
With Irons' status likely a question mark much of the week offensive coordinator Al Borges says that in the meantime it's business as usual for the offense. Because he hasn't been able to count on having a 100 percent Irons this season Borges says that they have continued to run the offense like he was in there and should be able to do this same thing this weekend with our without his senior. One thing is for sure and Borges says that if he's ready to go then Irons will be the man for the Tigers once again.
"It's the same every week," Borges says. "I don't know, I really don't know. We didn't play him much in this game so hopefully that will help but we didn't play him in other games. Kenny is mentally healthy enough to do that (get back to carrying the load) if he's healthy enough to do it. I think he can."
Now only one thing remains for Irons and that is to see how the ankle feels this week in practice. He says he's hopeful that the leg is better and if that is the case then all is well for Irons and the offense. If he's not full speed Irons says this week he'll still give it his all because at this time of year if you can walk you can play.
"I'm better but I'm not full speed," Irons says. "I talked with coach (Eddie) Gran and we know how much this game means to the team and how much us being able to run the ball means to this team and how much the team needs me. I just have to be tough. This defines my toughness. The scouts and everyone watching wants to know how tough is Irons? Is he one of those guys that gets hit and is injured for the rest of the season? That's not me. I'm just going to do out there and help us run the ball and make things happen."