Running Back Ready For His Opportunity

Auburn redshirt freshman Justin Albert talks about spring practice and the new offense.

Auburn, Ala.--The 2008 Auburn football season was a long one for everyone involved. It was particularly tough for walk-on running back Justin Albert.

A star player in high school for the Prattville Lions, Albert injured his knee during his senior season and was forced to rehab from major surgery while his new teammates struggled to a 5-7 season.

That wasn't easy for the player who had always been the go-to guy dating back to his early days in the game. Forced to sit and watch as Auburn's offense struggled, Albert says he got some perspective on the collegiate game and also learned some patience while on the sidelines.

"It was tough because I had never not played in a football game," Albert says. "It was kind of tough coming in knowing that I wasn't going to get to play. It was kind of tough. I took it like a man. Everybody has to serve their time. I just bounced back this year. I worked hard in the weight room and practice. I want to show them what I've got and that I want to play."

Justin Albert is looking to make a move this spring.

Now full speed and ready to go, Albert says he still occasionally has problems with the knee on a rainy day or when the weather changes, but other than that he's put the injury behind him. That has been huge as a change in the coaching staff and offense has given him a new lease on life.

Despite that fact that he walked on last season, Albert says he's currently splitting time between the first and second groups at running back while also seeing some time in the slot. He notes that the offense is slowly starting to get a feeling for coach Gus Malzahn's system.

"It has been pretty good," Albert says. "We've been working hard. I think the first day in pads went pretty good. Offensively we've still got a lot to work on. We've got to get on the same page."

The offense is one that should fit well with Albert's talents. An explosive runner with the ball in his hands and also a capable receiver, he says it's a system that he feels very comfortable in.

"I love it," Albert says. "It makes me feel like I'm back at Prattville again. It's basically the same offense, just a little different. I like the offense. We move people around. They've got me playing running back and slot receiver. I like it a lot."

Getting a chance is something that is particularly important for a player in Albert's situation. As a walk-on, sometimes players get left behind. With a coaching change though, Albert has a chance to show his position coach Curtis Luper and the rest of the staff that he can be a playmaker. He says that's all he's asking for from the new coaching staff.

"Actually it has been a blessing," Albert says. "I just thank God every day for the talent he gave me. There are a lot of players with a lot of talent at Auburn. There are a lot more people that can play, but it just means I'm going to have to step it up."

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