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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Injured safety Zac Etheridge still hopes to play again, will be in attendance at Iron Bowl

AUBURN, Ala. — Zac Etheridge was in good spirits when he made another appearance at the Auburn athletic complex Tuesday, a little less than a month after a suffering a scary neck injury against Ole Miss.

Still wearing a restrictive neck brace that prevents his head from moving side to side, the safety reiterated his desire to return to the football field at some point in the future.

"I expect to make a full recovery," he said. "As for football-wise, we don't know. Hopefully I'll be able to play again. I'm just taking it day-by-day. I'm just glad to be walking around and doing everything I'm doing right now."

Etheridge, a junior, tore ligaments in his neck and cracked his fifth vertebra trying to make a tackle against Ole Miss on Halloween. He was immobilized on the field and transported to a hospital as a precaution but was released a few days later, with doctors hopeful for a full recovery.

He's been around campus since, making appearances at Auburn's practices and team meetings.

"Just letting them see me with a smile on my face and just being around them in practice and just lifting them up," Etheridge said. "I'm walking around talking to them, helping the safeties out and talking trash with receivers like I always do. Just keep them going in practice."

He got a kick out of seeing his roommate, running back Ben Tate, wear his No. 4 as a tribute during the Georgia game, something he didn't know about until he started getting text message from friends prior to the game.

"It was uplifting," Etheridge said. "For him to just think of that and show support of me, it just helped out. It touched my parents and a lot of fans just to see him and what type of guy he is to wear my jersey."

Still, it hurts him not to be able to be on the field.

"It's definitely hard for any player that loves the game and wants to be out there and knowing you want to be out there with the guys, your brothers that you go to work with every day," he said. "But you can't and you're not able to do it, it kind of hurts you."

Etheridge, who has to wear the neck brace for a few more months, isn't sure what the future holds. He will resume classes soon and plans to graduate on time. He'd like to play again. If that's not a possibility, he'd like to coach.

He knows one thing for certain: he will be in attendance for the Iron Bowl on Friday.

"I'll definitely be out there be with the guys, just go out there be supportive," he said. "I can't wait for that."

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