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February 12, 2014

Fulfilling a dream


AUBURN | Auburn was the first school to offer Mississippi Gulf Coast defensive back Tony Bridges.

Bridges paid the Tigers back on Monday with a commitment, becoming the third member of the 2015 class.

Originally from Collins, Miss., Bridges attended Hattiesburg High School where he held zero college offers by the time his high school career finished. Talent wasn't the issue, academics were an issue. Bridges wasn't on track to qualify and most colleges understood that.

So, Bridges garnered no offers and little interest. He headed off to junior college, where he performed exceptionally well last season as a true freshman. Auburn offered, then Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

More programs are bound to offer, but Bridges has found his future home.

"I really wanted to get it out of the way and I want to focus on my grades and everything else," Bridges said. "In high school, everyone backed off me, but that made the road to Auburn happen."

Bridges' mother, who didn't graduate from college, is the only person of influence he credits with helping keep him motivated over the last two years. Bridges, the only brother among a family full of sisters, is hoping to make her proud.

"I always wanted to make it to college, so it's a dream come true. I'm proud, I told my mom I was going to make it to college. I want to play SEC and I'm going to get a chance to do it," he said.

"I told my mother, 'if Auburn offers, I'm going to go.' I like Auburn and I told her if they offered, I was going to commit. She made sure that's what I wanted to do and she gave me her blessing. She told me to work hard and that's what I plan on doing."

Aiding Bridges in his decision are former teammates and new Auburn enrollees, D'haquille Williams and Derrick Moncrief. The trio formed a friendship last season at MGCCC and Bridges hopes that continues on the Plains.

"We're real tight," said Bridges. "It played a part in my decision."

Bridges was a part-time starter as a freshman in 2013, totaling 28 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. He also served as the Bulldogs' primary kickoff and punt return man, averaging 29.7 yards on kickoff returns.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Bridges credits Auburn cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith for gaining his trust throughout the process.

"We're real tight and we have a good relationship. I like everything he talks about. He's a good coach and every coach I talk to says he's a good person and the right man for the job," Bridges said.

"Coach Smith likes what I bring to the table. I'm long, fast, my technique is good and I'm quick. I can jump, too. I love to cover."

Bridges hopes his commitment to Auburn is light at the end of a tunnel that began years ago.

"At the end of the day, I can't let up," Bridges said. "It can be taken from me at anytime, so I'm going to work like I've been doing. I'm going to think about where I was before so I'll continue to grind. I'm doing something positive with my life."

Twitter: @JHokanson

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