Senior Bowl Day 5: Mobile’s Own Prosch Playing With Emotion

Posted Jan 24, 2014

Auburn fullback lost his mother to brain cancer 16 months ago.

MOBILE, Ala. – Growing up with the Senior Bowl in his backyard was special for Auburn fullback Jay Prosch, but it’s the one person who won’t be able to sit in the stands at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in person that he’ll be thinking about tomorrow.

Prosch’s mother Iris was his biggest supporter throughout his youth and high school football days and into the college ranks. She didn’t think twice about traveling long distances when her son landed at the University of Illinois and played immediately for the Fighting Illini as a freshman in 2010, not even when the cancer that was eating away at her brain made it tougher to do so.

As soon as Prosch’s sophomore season came to a close he petitioned the NCAA for a waiver to transfer to Auburn so that he could be closer to his mother as the treatment got more intensive. He was granted that waiver and did not have to sit out a year, meaning that he could play his games closer to home so that Iris could try to attend them.

She passed away on September 2nd, 2012, the day after the Tigers lost to Clemson in their season opener, and was laid to rest five days later. Prosch and his teammates had to travel to Starkville, Mississippi to take on the Rebels of Ole Miss that following Saturday.

“I feel like she’s always with me, especially with football because she was just a huge supporter of me in football,” said Prosch, who is one of four Auburn players in the game. “So I’ll pray to her before every game, think about her before every practice and I know that she’s watching me. In a way I do play for her, but I think it would be wrong for me to say that I only play for my mom because obviously this is the game that I love and I play for myself and I play for all my sisters as well. But it’s definitely a family thing for me.”

Even though he’s not the most recognizable Tiger taking the field in Mobile – that honor goes to either cornerback Chris Davis or defensive end Dee Ford, Prosch is one of the most inspirational. He was a weekly winner of the FWAA Courage Award as a junior due to the way he went about his job blocking for Auburn’s tailbacks and quarterback while dealing with his mother’s illness.

Teams in need of a traditional fullback and lead blocker that is capable of running the ball between the tackles and catching the ball out of the backfield will definitely take notice of Prosch. Beyond his physical traits, which at just under 6-foot-1 and 256 pounds can be called ideal for an NFL fullback, it’s what he brings to the locker room and into the huddle that might convince a general manager to take him higher than expected in the NFL draft. The soft-spoken Southerner credits Iris with giving him those intangibles.

“My mom, well she was my mother so of course she gave me a ton of good advice just by living with her,” Prosch said. “Something that she really always said to me was just to be true to my myself and just soak in every moment and make the best out of it. So that’s really what I’ve been trying to do is just don’t forget who I am and where I came from and just no matter what if things aren’t going my way and if it doesn’t look good, don’t worry about that and just enjoy the opportunity that’s been given to you. So that’s really what I try to do.”

During his childhood, Prosch doesn’t remember coming to any of the Senior Bowl practices but he does remember being real small and watching the players walk onto the field as he stood by the fence and realizing how big they were. His clearer memories come from his time at UMS-Wright High School, where he was honored on Thursday at “Jay Prosch Day” for his role in leading the team to a state championship back in 2008.

Players from UMS-Wright help work the Senior Bowl every year and Prosch was one of them, which is something he cherished being that close to the best college players and NFL coaches. His head coach at Auburn, Gus Malzahn, spoke at Thursday’s ceremony in glowing terms about Prosch.

“Jay will make it in the NFL,” Malzahn said. “He’s physically tough, he’s mentally tough and he’s smart. He loves practicing. No one will outwork him, and that goes a long way. He is everything you want in a player and a person.”

That’s something Prosch’s mother knew years ago and no doubt is proud to hear being said about her son from wherever she is watching.
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