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An Open Letter to Kerryon Johnson

Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson leaving school early for 2018 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Auburn Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson announced on Twitter that he’s foregoing his senior season and entering the 2018 NFL Draft.

Johnson finishes his college career with 26 kickoff returns for 653 yards, 55 receptions for 478 yards and two touchdowns, 519 carries for 2,494 yards and 32 touchdowns and — last but not least — 4 of 4 passing with two touchdowns.

As 2017 came to an end, as is my annual tradition, I recalled the things, people, experiences and memories for which I am most grateful. I’d be lying if I said that Kerryon Johnson wasn’t included, so I penned a few thoughts for him:

Dear Kerryon,

Let’s start with that 60-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against Georgia Southern. I’m not a very loud person, but that’s the closest I’ve ever come to yelling in a public place.

It was a total bummer that you were out with the hamstring injury against Clemson and Mercer; but like you had already proved in previous years with your shoulder and ankle, the injury didn’t get you down. You worked hard, controlled the controllables and fought your way back onto the field. You didn’t give up.

Then you gave us those five touchdowns at Missouri. It’s fun to watch Auburn win big on the road. Like, knowing you’re not going to lose the game before the game is even over is one heckuva feeling, and I don’t take it for granted.

And the six touchdowns on 333 rushing yards against the Mississippi schools? HAHAHAHA. You had a great game at LSU, but to be honest, I’m not ready to talk about that one. Oh, and Arkansas? HAHAHAHA.

I made a 24-hour roundtrip drive with one of my dearest friends to College Station. We stayed with a family who had 12 — TWELVE — pet snakes. But it was a price I was willing to pay to see you guys do your thing. Those are stories I will tell my grandchildren.

It may or may not have brought me to tears when you caught that 55-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to seal the deal against Georgia. I did freak out a little when you limped off the field against Louisiana-Monroe, but that lone event took my prayer life to the next level.

And then the way you balled out against Alabama, my goodness. That touchdown pass to Nate Craig-Myers was glamorous. G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S. Then you got that rushing touchdown as a result of your making an extra effort. The shoulder/rib injury was pretty scary (especially while you were face down and not really moving); I’m not sure I’ve seen Jordan-Hare Stadium that quiet since Zac Etheridge’s injury.

They must have shot you up with Lawdknowswhat, but it became clear that you were in a lot of pain and ultimately had to come out of the game. You had literally given your arm for Auburn. It was at that moment that I told my husband we would name our firstborn son Kerryon. He chuckled like he thought it was a joke, but he’ll learn when little Kerryon Johnson Leslie is born that I wasn’t joking.

Like always, you fought through it and were on the field again against both Georgia and UCF, probably when you didn’t feel like it. While neither of those games turned out the way any of us would have liked, you still taught us multiple lessons:

Give your everything in every moment. Never give up. Keep churning your legs. Always push forward. Be a good teammate to those around you. Don’t let obstacles or setbacks steal your joy. They may slow you down, but they’ll only stop you if you let them.

I wish you the best in all your endeavors, that you achieve every goal you have in this life, both personally and professionally. You’ve been given a platform and you have the unique opportunity to positively impact countless people; don’t waste it.

Thanks for all you’ve done for Auburn, and for all the memories you’ve given Auburn fans.

War Eagle, KJ!