In the spring the first day in full pads marks the beginning of an important time for many players as they begin to wage a battle for a starting spot. For linebacker Steve Gandy, the first day in full pads was more like a day of rebirth.
Expected to be a major part of the Auburn defense last fall after moving from safety to weakside linebacker, Gandy instead watched from the sidelines for much of the year after having emergency surgery on his leg because of swelling underneath a muscle that caused him major problems.
Unable to go full speed because of that, Gandy instead focused on helping out the Tigers as a special teams performer after being cleared to return to the football field. Now back to full speed, Gandy says he's anxious to show what he can do as the Tigers try to replace starters Will Herring and Karibi Dede at linebacker.
"It's a new season," Gandy says. "It's a new me. I just want to start it off, at a new position of linebacker, on the right note. As far as the team, this is a new team. We lost a lot of good players like Will and Karibi. A lot of us are young or first-time players. It's a new me, a new Auburn defense, some new names have to step up."
Gandy gets in on the tackle during Thursday's practice.
Entering spring practice, Gandy is listed as the first-team linebacker on the weak side along with Merrill Johnson in the middle and Patrick Trahan on the strong side. Thursday they got to work together for the first time in contact drills as full pads were strapped on before the morning practice. Gandy says getting back into hitting form made the day exciting for the defense.
"It was fun," Gandy says. "The first day in pads there was a lot of emotion and a lot of people up on their high horse. We flew around the ball pretty good. Overall, for the defense, I thought it was a pretty good practice for the first day."
One of the players expected to be a leader for the Tigers on defense this season, Gandy has already taken on that role this spring as he spends his time out of drills talking with his teammates to make sure everyone is on the same page. While his job as a starter is safe for at least another day, redshirt freshman Craig Stevens is waiting in the wings to try to take his job away. Gandy says that no matter what happens he has learned to just do his job and live life and everything else will take care of itself.
"It's exciting but you can't take anything for granted," Gandy says. "It can change any day. You're always one injury away, which I learned that the hard way. You just have to take each day to get better and look at it as a day-to-day process. It's not long-term. I'm not saying I'm going to start next year or next week. I'm starting today and hopefully starting tomorrow. I'm just taking it one day at a time."