A.J. Greene is a member of the 2007 Auburn recruiting class, collectively ranked seventh best in the nation by ESPN that year. Auburn fans expected huge production from this class.
But it just wasn't in the cards for this talented group of young men. They would usher in one of the most unstable times in Auburn football history. A.J. Greene is a product of those times.
He committed to Auburn on November 29, 2006. Auburn had just finished the season going 10-2 with losses to Georgia and Arkansas. They were to play Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, a game they would win.
Everyone, including A.J., thought the sky was the limit for the Auburn team he had just joined. He had got the attention of the Auburn staff as a 6’5” 250 pound strong side defensive end from Brentwood Academy in Tennessee.
That Brentwood Academy team had just won the Tennessee State Championship in their class. He would be a finalist for Tennessee "lineman of the year" as a result of his considerable contributions to that team.
A.J. would join other classmates taking different routes to a newly earned starting role: Mike McNeil, Lee Ziemba, Ryan Pugh, Wes Byrum, Kodi Burns, Nick Fairley, ElToro Freeman, Josh Bynes and Quindarious Carr are all players that initially made their commitment to Auburn in that recruiting class.
All of these players had the strength to stick with the team through some interesting, and admittedly tough times. Some would not make the initial academic requirements and go the Junior College route with the hopes of committing again at a later time. Some would suffer devastating season-ending injuries and spend a year rehabilitating. A.J. himself would have to overcome position changes and turmoil to fight his way to the goal he had set.
He was redshirted when unable to fight his way into playing time on the defensive line. He would not play at all in 2008 when the team finished a dismal 5-7 on the season. He watched as the same coaching staff that had only recently recruited him, was ushered out the door.
He was moved to offensive line and had to work hard to pick up the skills, strength and weight required to be a starting lineman in the SEC. All of this was overwhelming at first, it would take time for him to adapt to his new reality.
With time slipping away and him seeing fellow classmates step into their senior roles, it dawned on him that urgent measures were needed to meet his goals. He rededicated himself and subsequently bought into the plan of the new coaching staff. This would be the starting point for realizing the dream he had had years before.
Barring some bad luck, A.J. Greene surprised everyone but himself and his teammates. He will step on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium September fourth, 2010, as the starting right tackle—this was the result of a six-month battle with several talented teammates.
Now he must go out onto that field and meet the other goals he has set for himself and this 2010 team. He is just one of many stories of hard work and dedication that are a part of this year's Auburn Tigers.
While the 2007 Auburn recruiting class did take a different route, they are stepping up with goals to meet this year. This could be the story of the class of perseverance on the plains.