BY AARON BRENNER | email@example.com
AUBURN, Ala. – A contrite Reese Dismukes said after Wednesday’s spring practice he’s made the necessary changes both on and off the field since his arrest for public intoxication a week before the 2012 season opener, which got the Auburn center suspended for that game against Clemson.
“It definitely made me grow up a lot, which I needed,” Dismukes said. “I made some mistakes, and that’s a good thing and a bad thing. I mean, it just opened my eyes to a whole new world and made me focus more on this team and just being the best I can be for this university.”
Selected to the 2011 SEC all-SEC freshman squad, Dismukes enters his junior season as the clear vocal leader of Auburn’s offensive line, according to head coach Gus Malzahn and junior right guard Chad Slade.
“He’s the leader up front; he’s got the most experience,” Malzahn said Monday. “Those guys will listen to him.”
Not having spoken with reporters since that Aug. 25 arrest, Dismukes answered tough questions about the incident and how he’s altered himself in the past seven months.
“I don’t give myself a chance to get in trouble. That obviously can never happen again, or I won’t be here. So I had to change, and I’ve changed,” Dismukes said. “I’ve focused a lot more on the team – on the field, becoming more of a vocal leader; off the field, just doing everything right.”
Unwilling to create a reputation for himself as a troublemaker, Dismukes said “I walk a lot straighter line than I did back at the time when it happened.”
As the most experienced offensive line starter in the Tigers’ arsenal (23 starts in two years), Dismukes knows he’s got a chance to make good on his professional aspirations if he stays in line. Auburn hasn’t had a pure center drafted into the NFL since Bob Meeks in 1992 by the Denver Broncos.
“Obviously I have a good chance to go to the next level if I keep doing what I’ve been doing. I can’t do that making mistakes like I did,” Dismukes said. “I’ve just got to grow up, and I’ve done that. Just keep advancing on the field, and getting better every day, coming to work.”
Dismukes and receivers Quan Bray and DeAngelo Benton were each suspended one game for off-field incidents last season. Then-head coach Gene Chizik summoned a private security firm to enforce player curfews, as first reported by the Montgomery Advertiser in early November.
“We did what we had to do. We did what we were told. Obviously that had some things to do with me, and I did what I had to do,” Dismukes said. “I think the whole team responded to doing what we were told.”
Slade, the offense’s only other prospective third-year starter besides Dismukes, is accepting that leadership role along with the 6-foot-3, 290-pounder to his left.
“Oh yeah, I’ve seen him grow up,” Slade said. “He’s better. He’s not that same Reese. He’s a good person now, he’s got his mind right, he’s mentally (and) physically tough. He’s one of the leaders out there.”
Slade didn’t even necessarily believe Dismukes ever lost that go-to guy mentality shortly after being reinstated for Week 2 last year.
“All that stuff is in the past for Reese,” Slade said. “He’s always been a vocal leader, he’s just getting better and better with it. He’s going to be a big-time player.
“He’s always been mature, but he just, you know, had a little setback. He’s good and he’s ready to go. I’m proud of him.”
Already tabbed the team’s vocal leader by others, Dismukes agreed it’s a role he’s looking to embrace.
“Definitely I was a leader of the offensive line last year,” Dismukes said. “I had to step up, and I definitely have.”