"They (Alabama) recruited me, but I was an Auburn guy from the get-go," Etheridge says. "I was just waiting on their offer. I had been an Auburn fan."
Part of two Auburn wins over the Tide since arriving on campus, Etheridge was on the field for the Auburn's 17-10 win over Alabama last season. With that memory in place and knowing it's a chance to extend a streak to seven consecutive years of victories vs. Auburn's archrival, he says the game can't get any bigger than it already is no matter the circumstances.
"Growing up an Auburn fan all my life, this is one of the biggest games you look forward to each year," Etheridge says. "Beating them six times you want to do it again. Right now we want to send our seniors off because they've never lost to them. Other than that we're just looking forward to the game being here."
Currently 5-6 on the season, the Tigers are using the week to try to get healthy to make one final push at a big win in 2008. On defense that means starters such as Antonio Coleman, Sen'Derrick Marks and Josh Bynes are watching from the sidelines trying to get back to full speed. Etheridge says even though there are people missing it hasn't taken away from the spirit and intensity on the field.
"It has been going well this week," Etheridge says. "Practice has been physical. We've cut back on time trying to get everybody back. It has been a fun week of practice trying to get ourselves better and getting together on what we need to work on.
"It hasn't been different at all," he adds. "We've still been going to work. We're working hard. Keeping working is all we've been doing this week."
While several players have missed practices and games with injuries, Etheridge has battled through a shoulder problem for the entire regular season. Now with one game left and needing a win to become bowl eligible, he notes that all he can do is grin and bear it and play through it.
"I have been practicing," Etheridge says. "I'm fighting through the pain. I've done it all year. This game you just keep going. It's coming along. It's not 100 percent and it hasn't been all year. It's bothering me a lot, but I'm fighting through it. It's still hurting and this offseason we'll see what we have to do with it."
Alabama comes into the Iron Bowl undefeated and ranked number one in the country. The last four times a team has come into the game without a loss that team has won the contest with Auburn's win over Alabama in 1989 the last time a first loss came in the game. Etheridge says that while it's going to be tough and it wouldn't erase many of the memories of the disappointing 2008 season, getting a win next Saturday would make for a sweet ending to a sour season.
"It would mean a lot," Etheridge says. "You still look back on the year and say we didn't do so good, but this is the game that everybody wants to win. The pressure is on them. We're just going out to play and give it all we've got to get a win. It would mean a lot going into the offseason."