The mere fact that Doolittle is still playing football after an Achilles tendon tear forced him to miss the 2007 season is a victory in itself. That he was able to perform as well as he did 12 months after an injury that normally requires a 16-month rehab time and can end the football careers of players is even more impressive.
When Doolittle went down with the serious injury during preseason camp for the 2007 season, many wondered if he would ever play again. Doolittle had put so much into getting ready for a senior season after a less than sterling career that at time seemed it would be cut short.
A second chance, made possible by the NCAA granting him a sixth-year of eligibility last winter, is all that Doolittle needed. Saturday night he came back strong in the first game he had played since the 2007 Cotton Bowl.
"It was fun being back on the field, being with my teammates," said Doolittle, a 280-pound noseguard listed behind Mike Blanc on the depth chart.
"I was shocked in the first quarter when Coach (defensive line coach Don Dunn) told me to go in," Doolittle said. "It had been such a long time and I was kind of nervous."
The nerves disappeared quickly as Doolittle got into the flow of the game early in the contest.
Among his two solo tackles and an assist was a fourth down stop when ULM went for a first down with about two feet to go. Doolittle stuffed the handoff to the running back in the backfield for a four-yard loss.
Doolittle said sophomore linebacker Josh Bynes actually lined the defense up wrong on the play. "My technique wasn't right, but I was able to shoot the gap and make the play," he said.
Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said he believes Doolittle was turned loose on the play. It didn't matter to Doolittle or Rhoads exactly what happened--only the result.
"I was great to seem him out there," Rhoads commented. "I think he played well."
Tiger head coach Tommy Tuberville was happy for the big man made the short trip from Opelika High School to Auburn in the 2003 signing class as one of the top-rated defensive linemen in the country. "Tez did well," Tuberville said. "That's great for him to see him have fun. At this time last year, he was just getting out of the hospital. A year later, it's good to see."
Tez Doolittle is shown during a summer voluntary workout as he trained to regain his quickness and agility.
Doolittle worked so hard on his comeback, including extra workouts on his own in the evenings, that his trainers had to tell him to lighten his load because he was having a difficult time keeping his weight up.
Defensive end Antonio Coleman, whose hit on the quarterback caused a fumble to allow Auburn to score on the first defensive play of the game for the Tigers, was thrilled to have Doolittle back in action.
"He played a great game and I'm happy for him," Coleman said. "Ever since he came back we've been hanging out. We've got that bond back. I think Tez is going to be real good for us."