Robby Ashford, the star of Hugh Freeze’s Auburn football program’s 59-14 Week 1 victory over UMass, almost left the Tigers ahead of the 2023 season after being beat out for the starting quarterback job by Michigan State transfer Payton Thorne.
“It didn’t feel like I was good enough, had a few rough days,” Ashford said (h/t AL.com). “I was just sitting at home and almost just felt like I needed to give up.” Ultimately, though, Ashford accepted his role as QB2 and got his mind right by fixing his outlook on himself and his place on AU.
“Who knows if I’ll start this year? But I’ve just gotta prepare like I’m gonna be the starter,” Ashford said.
Robby Ashford: Auburn football team believes I’m a quarterback
Ashford’s belief in his rushing abilities helped him accept that regardless of the means he uses to score, he is a leader for Auburn — and his Tigers teammates believe the same.
“I mean, it was hard, but now, just knowing, ‘OK, I have the threat of my legs — don’t be afraid to use it because of what people are gonna say about me,'” Ashford said. “At the end of the day, I know I’m a quarterback. Coach Freeze believes that I’m a quarterback, and this whole team does. Whatever anybody else has to say, I don’t look at it. I think God blessed me with an ability to be able to use my legs. I mean, he blessed me with that. I can’t help that.”
Ashford had 51 rushing yards against the Minutemen in Week 1, while only completing two passes for three yards.
Hugh Freeze: Robby Ashford is vital to Auburn winning football games
Had Ashford quit football before the 2023 season, Freeze would’ve been without someone he considers vital to Auburn winning football games.
“I have said Robby Ashford is vital to us winning football games,” Freeze said after beating UMass. “I don’t know how else to say it. He is vital to us winning football games. I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like from week to week, but he’s vital to us winning football games and we need him.”
Ashford’s three touchdowns in the second quarter shifted the power balance of a game that started off looking like it wouldn’t be the blowout it would be because of Auburn’s defensive woes. Moving forward, what he provides as a red-zone threat will make AU dynamic in an area it’s struggled in for years.