AUBURN - Even before head coach Gene Chizik told him on Thursday that he would eligible to play in 2012, fullback Jay Prosch knew he'd made the right decision when he transferred from Illinois to Auburn last January.
Auburn fullback Jay Prosch
After an All-American sophomore season, Prosch decided it was time to get closer to his hometown of Mobile, where his mother, Iris, is battling brain cancer. He transferred to Auburn and requested a waiver that would allow him to be eligible immediately. But he didn't fret when one month became another and he'd not heard anything .
"After spring ball I was going to put everything in God's hands," Prosch said. "I'm already happy. Through spring and already through summer, I've been able to go home so much. It's been completely different, and it's been awesome. I was already happy. Either way I would have been happy. This is great."
Prosch, 6 feet and 253 pounds, specializes in plowing through defenders. He has become a favorite of Auburn fans and his teammates without playing a game in orange and blue.
"When people say Auburn family, they really mean Auburn family," Prosch said. "Ever since I've been here, I've felt like part of the family."
Prosch played linebacker at UMS-Wright High School in Mobile, but former Illinois coach Ron Zook saw a fullback. And it didn't take long for Prosch to prove him right.
"I really didn't run the ball and really didn't catch the ball," Prosch said. "I just ran leads and tried to make a hole for the running back. Honestly, that's what I love doing. Coming out of high school, I'd never played fullback and I was kind of nervous about it. Once I started playing it, the first few games I realized 'this is what I like to do.' "
But in the spring of his sophomore year, Prosch got the distressing news from home.
"That summer, we really were still learning a lot about how serious it was and exactly what it was and treatments and what was really going to happen," Prosch said. "It's hard to transfer in the summer. I played throughout the year. It was a good time for me to transfer.
"Last season she was healthy enough to travel and come see me play at Illinois. November is when she started having problems again. I think she will be able to. She came for the spring game, which was really cool."
His mother got bad news in recent months. She is, Prosch said, showing him, his three sisters and his father how to be strong.
"She's being strong right now," Prosch said. A few months ago, she got a diagnosis that the tumor was progressing. She's just still staying strong and being hopeful. We're fighting it all together. She's great."
And now he can go home to see her far more often than he could when he was far away in Champaign, Ill.
"It's been amazing," Prosch said. "Weekends when I don't have to be here or don't have anything here, I can go home, ride home with my sister sometimes. I can go home and be with my mom and my other sister who lives in Mobile."
Prosch was at the football complex Thursday when he got the call from Chizik. Soon, the word was out and happy messages were coming from teammates.
"They were very supportive and excited," Prosch said. "That made me more excited."
Prosch will play a significant role in first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler's scheme. He expects it to be much like it was at Illinois. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't like to have the ball handed to him or thrown to him.
"I wouldn't mind it, but I'm not asking for it," Prosch said. "I'm a team player and I'll do whatever it takes to win. It would be kind of nice if it happened a few times."
For a video of Prosch's full interview, follow the link below.