Sitting out the entire fall after failing to qualify academically following his senior year of Russellville High, Sears finally got his needed test score last month and was able to suit up with his teammates for the first time as the Tigers began preparations for Penn State and the Capital One Bowl to be played on New Year's Day in Orlando.
"It was a pretty long wait," Sears said. "I couldn't stand it. I was just working out and running every day watching them out there having fun on the field. I couldn't wait to get out there."
A 6-5, 217-pound missile on the football field, Sears was one of the highest-rated prospects in Alabama as a safety last season. Earning All-State honors as both a junior and a senior while earning a place in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Classic in Mobile, he was all set to set the football world on fire until he didn't complete the requirements to be eligible this season.
That meant a year of prep school, junior college, or sitting out to re-take the ACT until he got his necessary score. Sears chose to sit out and the decision turned out to be the correct one. Working part-time in Auburn in addition to attending school part-time, he got a chance to be around the program while working towards qualification."
"I went to school part-time but at the same time I had to go through everything the redshirted people went through," Sears noted. "So this year was kind of like a redshirt year. This is pretty much a jump-start on the players that are coming in. I'll have some experience with the other players and have some time out there in practice to get used to it."
A star athlete at Russellville, Sears was almost always bigger than everyone they played in sports and that was particularly advantageous on the basketball court. Averaging double figures in points and rebounds as a junior, he said he thought he was headed for a career on the hardwood until someone intervened and steered him in the right direction.
All it took to end his pipe dreams of being a big-time basketball player was a talk from football coach Perry Swindall. Also the school's athletic director, he took Sears into his office one afternoon before his senior season and told him his future was in football. From that moment on it has been onward and upward for the athletic Sears. Despite leading his team to the state title game in basketball, Sears said he knew football was the game for him after high school.
"I wanted to be a basketball player all my life," Sears said. "When I realized I wasn't going to be a basketball player I just tried to make that transition to football."
Karlos Dansby (11) and Kevin Sears (47) loosen up at practice while linebacker coach Joe Whitt watches.
A safety in high school, he will line up at linebacker for the Auburn Tigers during the bowl practices and is thought by many to be a clone of current Tiger star Karlos Dansby. While he didn't play the position in high school, he said that it's not that much of a reach to make the move from the secondary to the front seven for Auburn.
"The style of play that I played safety in high school it was kind of like playing some linebacker for me," Sears said. "I moved up and stayed inside and played the box a lot. It's pretty much the same thing here. I'm going to try to get used to it as time goes on."
His coach says that Sears will be able to make the transition to the linebacker spot. Talking about the freshman after watching him practice, Coach Tommy Tuberville said, "He's going to play outside linebacker. Where he ends up we don't know. It depends on how big he gets. I think he'll be a good outside linebacker with his height and his build. I don't know how much weight he can put on. It's good to have him out here for the bowl practices."
Tiger Ticket Extra: Sears, the cousin of former Auburn offensive lineman Colin Sears, had 68 tackles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions as a senior for the Golden Tigers. As a junior he had 77 tackles and seven interceptions. His younger brother Aaron Sears is considered the top offensive line prospect in Alabama this season and one of the top in the country. His cousin, Colin Sears, was a starting offensive lineman for the Tigers.