Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and junior wideout Sammie Coates met with the media on Monday to discuss the tragic shooting of redshirt freshman Jakill Mitchell and Coates’ decision to enter the 2015 NFL Draft.

Gus Malzahn

On loss of Mitchell

The last 48 hours have been tough and challenging. We lost a member of our family that was very close to our players, our coaches. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jakell’s family at this time. In honor of Jakell during our bowl game, we’re going to wear, and our players are going to wear No. 31 on their helmet, which I think is very appropriate.

On dealing with a tragedy

It’s a tough time. We’re a family. We get really close, our players are close, our coaches are close to our players. It’s a challenging time.

On delivering the news to the team

Yeah, we had a team meeting yesterday. We had professional counselors here. It was good for our players and it was good for our coaches, too.

On learning the news

I got a phone call.

On feelings in the aftermath

It breaks you heart. It breaks your heart for the family. Breaks your heart for our football family. He was extremely close to a lot of our players and our coaches. He’s got a great family, and it just breaks your heart.

On whether or not he’s spoken to Mitchell’s family

Yes. Numerous times.

On multiple players being shot at same complex

Well, we want our players in safe places.

On if other players were at the complex

No. They weren’t.

On how long counselors will be around

As long as we need. You know, any time you go through something like this, a lot of times it’s time that heals it. It’s still early, a lot of emotions, everyone reacts a little bit different. As long as needed.

On how he’s handled it as a coach

You just try to be a strong leader for your team. I really want to be there for the family. It’s tough. It’s just a tough time.

On circumstances surrounding the shooting

Yeah, out of respect for the family, I don’t want to get into anything other. Like I said, it’s tough. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.

On what Mitchell brought to the team

Well, he was an outstanding player. He was an outstanding person. A lot of winner in him.

On players being at the complex

Well, you tell your players, you know, we want them in positive places.

On lasting memories of Mitchell

Anytime you recruit someone, you get to know them, you get to know their family. You know, he’s from right up the road. I’ve known him for a long time. There’s a lot of memories. His smile. I think about the off-the-field stuff, the person, the smile and everything that goes with it.

On Mitchell’s progress as a player

He handled it well. He was going to be an outstanding player.

On impact on practice

It probably had something to do with it, but it’s been a while since we’ve been out there. We were a little rusty, but that’s to be expected. We were a little rusty this time last year after the break and before we played for the national championship. I really feel like the rust will be off, we’ll come out there tomorrow, the older guys will have a better practice. The young guys were very excited. It was good for them, there was some real positive energy. It was good to see those guys do their thing.

On top JUCO RB Jovon Robinson getting work at first day of practice

He got some. He just got here, trying to get him slowly acclimated and everything that goes with it.

On Muschamp

He just observed.

On if he’ll offer input during practice

I’m sure he will.

On who’s coaching linebackers during bowl game

Travis Williams. We inserted him to coach the linebackers. He’s got a good understanding playing linebacker here before.

On Coates

Yeah, I’ll let Sammie talk here in just a minute and then I’ll come back afterwards and talk about him.

On Coates decision to enter the NFL Draft

I’m very proud of Sammie. It just seems like yesterday a real quiet, skinny kid from Leroy, Ala., was up in our office. I think he was either a two-star or a three-star and after a camp we offered him. I’m real proud to sit here with a guy like Sammie. To watch him grow, he’s represented Auburn football in a great way, he’s represented us off the field in a great way and he’s got a bright future.

I’m real proud of him. He’s got his degree, like he said, and that’s very important to Sammie. We’re excited for him and his future, and we got him for one more game. He’s going to be ready to play and go out with a bang.

Sammie Coates

On tragic shooting

You know, it’s a hard time for anybody. That was our brother. I knew him real, real well. You know, I used to hang out with him when I had chances to hang out with him. He was a good kid, great player. I’ve been through a lot of tragedies since I’ve been and every time you go through something like that, it breaks your heart because you don’t want to see anything happen to your family member. And it broke my heart when I heard it, it was the worst news I could even imagine. Lost Lutz, you know, I knew Lutz real well and to get another teammate, another brother, it hurt, it hurt my heart. It’ just painful, you don’t want to lose anybody you care about. Nobody that’s a part of your family, and he was a part of our family and it hurt.

It still bothers me now just thinking about his family, his friends, these people on this team. It’s just a tragedy and you have to be strong and keep praying, and give all the credit to God and let him take over.

On experiencing multiple shootings during time at Auburn

You know, like I said, it’s always going to hurt. That’s somebody you were going to go to battle with, you practice with, you sweat with. All my brothers that I’ve lost, it hurts. I still think about all of them, every single one of them. It just hurts so bad to lose people you care about and that are a part of your family. It’s just one of those things, it can tear you apart.

On next step

I’m going to enter the NFL Draft. I think it’s important for me to do this, now that I graduated Saturday. I think its time for me to take another step in my life and take that chance. I give all the thanks to all my coaches. Coach Malzahn for recruiting me. Coach Craig, you know, he developed me into the great person that I am, great wide receiver. They’ve done a great job building me into who I am today. It’s one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life.

I just want to thank Auburn University and all the fans and all the people that supported me. I just give all the credit to God above for blessing me with this opportunity. It’s just an unbelievable feeling to be able to make this decision. I just can’t thank my coaches enough.