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July 7, 2005When mentioning Auburn's running backs for 2005, he's the one in the back of people's minds instead of on the tips of their tongues. He's the youngest of the four running backs at Auburn, and the least mentioned. Brad Lester is the forgotten one, the underdog, at least for now.
After redshirting last year right out of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga., Lester was scheduled to compete in the spring with Tre Smith, Kenny Irons and Carl Stewart for the running back spots left vacant by the departure of Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams. The stage was set for the battle, but Lester sat wounded on the sidelines.
"I pulled my hamstring a couple of weeks before spring and I wasn't able to go through it," said Lester. "The coaches told me not to come out if I wasn't 100-percent so I had to wait.
"It was difficult to watch spring ball because everybody else was out there competing for the job. It was especially hard knowing that the two starters had left and the job was right there."
Instead of breaking tackles and dodging defenders, Lester spent his spring inside the training room and outside pushing peddles. It didn't make it any easier.
"They had me inside rehabbing," he said. "And when I did get to go out to practice, they put me on the (stationary) bicycle right there on the side watching the scrimmages."
As he did in March, Lester has continued to rehabilitate his hamstring. He's now back to 100-percent and anxiously awaiting the start of two-a-days in August. He may be at the bottom of the depth chart, but he doesn't expect to stay there long.
"I didn't do spring practice so nobody knows what I can do," he said. "I know during two-a-days I will make sure I'm in shape and go out there and compete.
"I am more looking forward to the scrimmages during two-a-days more than anything. That is the time you get to compete and show what you can do."
Lester showed what he is capable of doing during his high school days at Parkview. In his final two years in Georgia's largest classification, Lester rushed for 3,720 yards and 42 touchdowns. As a senior, he racked up 2,090 yards rushing and 27 scores. In addition to Auburn, Lester had scholarship offers from Notre Dame, South Carolina and Virginia among others.
"Anytime I get the ball, I want to be successful and contribute," he said. "I want to be productive."
With two juniors in Smith and Irons as well as Stewart ahead of him on the depth chart, Lester may have to be patient before he receives a majority of the carries. However, there are other chances to get his hands on the ball, mostly through special teams.
"I hope I can get a chance to return kicks," he said. "I think I did a pretty good job of it last year in practice and I'm pretty sure I will get another shot at it. Anyway to get on the field, that is how it starts. Whenever I get on the field, I want to be productive."
But he's not conceding the running back spot to anyone, not even his three friends.
"Me, Kenny, Tre and Carl are all friends," he said. "But we all know all of us want that starting spot."
Lester will be physically prepared to compete for that No. 1 position in August. The hamstring injury that kept him out of spring is healed. The training room isn't a place he plans to frequent, nor are the imaginary places he traveled in his mind while pushing the peddles on the stationary bike.
He may enter fall practice the underdog, but Lester's bite is bigger than his bark. He doesn't plan to be there long.
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