A lot of nicknames have amusing backstories, and it's no different with Auburn junior running back Tank Bigsby.
"My mom gave me the name Tank when I was in a rec game," Bigsby said last week at the Southeastern Conference's media days event in Atlanta. "I had been running, and my helmet came off, and I kept running.
"After the game, she said, 'Boy, you was moving like a tank.' Ever since then, everybody has called me Tank."
Bigsby, whose given first name is Cartavious, certainly has resembled a tank during his first two seasons with the Tigers, amassing 1,933 rushing yards. The 6-foot, 213-pounder from LaGrange, Georgia, was the SEC freshman of the year in 2020, rushing 26 times for 192 yards during a 24-10 win at Mississippi State just hours before the announcement of Gus Malzahn's firing.
Bryan Harsin replaced Malzahn and quickly turned to Bigsby, who rushed for 1,099 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
"Tank is obviously a fantastic player, but I think he has most improved overall just in preparation, leadership and some of the things that we've seen from a really good, young player," Harsin said. "His work ethic is second to none. He's put in the work. He does it on the off days. He does it on Sundays.
"He does it every chance he gets."
Bigsby, the nation's No. 4 running back and No. 40 recruit overall in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the 2020 class, rushed 23 times for 140 yards and a touchdown last Halloween weekend as Auburn downed Ole Miss 31-20. The win over the Rebels elevated the Tigers to a 6-2 record and a No. 12 ranking, but they would drop their final five games of the season.
Last season: 6-7 (3-5 SEC)Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Mercer in Auburn (7 p.m. on ESPN+)Fun fact: The Tigers are just 2-7 in their last nine bowl games after going 8-1 in their previous nine.Up next: Florida
The most memorable of those defeats was a 24-22 loss to visiting Alabama in four overtimes. With less than two minutes left in regulation and Auburn leading 10-3 and forcing the Crimson Tide to burn their timeouts, Bigsby took a second-and-11 carry at the Crimson Tide 47 and raced 10 yards before being pushed out of bounds, thus giving Alabama the eventual time it would need to send the game into overtime.
"I replay that a lot," Bigsby admitted. "I try not to think about what happened in the past, but I think about that a lot. I learn from everything, and if that presents itself again, I'm going to do what I have to do."
Barely two months after the first Iron Bowl that required more than 60 minutes to be decided, Bigsby was having to deal with the whirlwind of Harsin potentially losing his job due to a university inquiry into the multiple player and staff departures that followed the disappointing 6-7 collapse.
Bigsby was a popular discussion piece on social media as to whether he would stick around regardless of the Harsin verdict.
"I looked back at when I first got to Auburn and just remembered why I came to Auburn," Bigsby said. "Me leaving would be like I was running away from my problems. I told myself that if I run, I couldn't run forever. I put my foot down, and I feel like I made the right decision.
"The guys who chose to leave left for a reason, and some of them were probably cancers on the team. We don't have that bad energy anymore."
Despite Bigsby's loyalty and productivity, Auburn was picked seventh last week in the SEC West. The Tigers are unsettled at quarterback, with Texas A&M transfer Zach Calzada challenging former LSU transfer TJ Finley, who became the starter last November when Bo Nix was lost for the season.
Nix transferred out to Oregon, but Bigsby is confident the quarterback situation will work itself out quickly in preseason camp and that the Tigers are poised to move back up the division.
"We're all we've got," he said. "We're playing for each other. Rumors got around, but staying with these guys means the world to me.
"People have doubted us before but never the way they're doubting us now."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com.