Auburn's Tatum getting kicks

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Patrick Tatum wanted to play for Auburn ever since he was a child.

When he got the call from Tigers' special teams coach Eddie Gran in late July inviting him to walk-on, Tatum scrapped his plans to attend Jacksonville State on a "leadership scholarship" and headed to Auburn.

He said that was a call he'd never forget.

The Tigers are glad he came to Auburn. Tatum, who is from tiny Sylvania, has taken over punting duties with Ryan Shoemaker sidelined with a dislocated elbow.

Tatum buried his first punt inside South Florida's 1-yard line, and is averaging a solid 40 yards. He's certainly glad he opted for Auburn, where his father graduated.

He said he felt bad about ditching Jacksonville State at the last minute, but didn't want to spend his life thinking, "What if I had gone to Auburn?"

He said he didn't become Sylvania's punter until his senior season, handling field goals and kickoffs the rest of his high school career.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)