The sophomore linebacker, who missed all of spring drills recovering from an off-season surgery, was told he would start in Auburn's season-opener against Louisiana Tech.
"I didn't want to tell him too far in advance," joked Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof.
Herring figured it out when he was still getting first-team reps in Thursday's practice.
"I took the first team reps throughout the week, but Thursday is The Day," Herring said. "It's the last practice together. It was then that I knew I needed to crank it up."
He started working that much harder, if only to quell the butterflies rising in the p it of his stomach.
After all, he hadn't started since 2006 when he led his high school squad, Shiloh Christian, in the Arkansas state championship game. He barely saw playing time last year and had surgery on his heel at the end of the season. He sat out the entire spring waiting on it to heal.
"He's practiced seven or eight times and didn't go through spring practice," Roof admits, "but he's a blue collar kid who plays hard. I'm real proud of him tonight."
For Herring, it's the stuff dreams are made of – at least his dreams anyway.
Herring's daddy, Reggie, coached linebackers at Auburn in the 1980s and now coaches for the Dallas Cowboys. The son quickly called the father and told him he had gotten the starting nod.
"He gave me about all the advice in the book you can think of," the younger Herring grinned. "He told me to stay focused, that I earned it and to make the best of the situation."
Herring was all blushes and grins and "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" every other word after the game.
He almost still couldn't believe it himself. He couldn't stop smiling.
He made two solo tackles in Auburn's 37-13 win over the Bulldogs. He hit hard and ran fast and caught folks' attention.
And he was loving it.
"It was really exciting," he said. "It's what you dream about at night and think about and play in your head and everything. It's so much more when you get out there. Once you get in there the game slows down as it goes on and you start to enjoy it some more. It's a blast."
Herring said while his body was slightly out of shape, his mind was not. He had been studying the defense all along and hit the playbook a little harder after Thursday night.
"I tried to work hard every day to put myself in the situation where it could happen, and it did," he said. "It's pretty wild. It's something I tried the best I could to prepare my body for.
"Obviously, you can't do everything. I got a little tired. I was a little out of shape toward the second half. I tried to play hard. I laid it all on the line."
And for the most part, he was satisfied with his performance.
"There's always things I could have done better," he said. "You always sit there and are real critical and go through the plays in your head and think of things you could have done better, but I played hard. I was not confused at all. I got in the playbook pretty hard when I realized I was coming back and was going to get a shot."
Herring especially enjoyed the second half when Auburn's defense contained the Bulldogs to three-and-out almost every possession.
"That's always fun," he said with a grin. "Three-and-out, swarming to the ball, 11 hats to the ball. It's pretty."