CMM: Past, present Clemson stars up for Final Four spot


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CJ Spiller has a tough Elite 8 matchup with another record-breaking Tigers running back in Travis Etienne.
CJ Spiller has a tough Elite 8 matchup with another record-breaking Tigers running back in Travis Etienne.

TigerNet’s version of March Madness reaches the Elite 8, using our extra time at home now to recognize the accomplishments of the top competitors in Clemson athletics history.

And this group is truly elite, legends past and present in Tigers athletics seeking a spot in the Final Four and a Clemson athlete Mount Rushmore of sorts.

This exercise measures the top accomplishments while a collegiate athlete and is meant to be a fun celebration of Clemson athletes across the decades.

Here's the full Clemson March Madness bracket:

Click here or on the image for larger view

Debate for your favorites in the bracket and examine the profiles for your pick of this elite group of Tigers. Vote below (Voting deadline at 10 a.m. on 4/2)!


Sikes Hall Region


McFadden profile

Played: 1936-39

* Two-time All-American in basketball (1938-39) and Clemson’s first AP All-American for football (1939). McFadden helped lead the Tigers to the school’s only conference tournament victory (1939, SoCon) and the program’s first bowl win (Cotton Bowl, 1940).

* AP athlete of the year for 1939 and earned three letters out of basketball, football and track from 1936-39. College Football Hall of Fame member.

* No. 4 overall pick from the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers, which ties Clelin Ferrell, Gaines Adams and Sammy Watkins for the highest-drafted Clemson football players. Still holds the Clemson season record in punts of 50-plus yards (22) and the longest rush in school history (90 yards; tied by Travis Etienne in 2019).

Greene profile

Played: 1999-2002

* Earned multiple national player of the year and All-American honors for a monster 2002 season, where his marks in doubles (33; NCAA-leading that season), home runs (27), RBIs (91), slugging percentage (.877), hits (134; NCAA-leading that season) and total bases (250; NCAA-leading that season) still lead the Clemson record books.

* He holds the Clemson career marks in hits (403), doubles (95), extra-base hits (154), RBIs (276) and total bases (668).

* Tied for being the fourth highest-drafted Tiger with a 13th overall selection to the San Diego Padres.

Tournament road: The multi-sport All-American McFadden moved into the Elite 8 in a battle with 1980s All-American Michael Dean Perry. He advanced past 2016 title-game hero Hunter Renfrow in the first round and then fellow Dabo era legend Christian Wilkins in the second round. Greene topped fellow Clemson diamond star Rusty Adkins, who was the Tigers’ first three-time All-American and holds the ACC’s longest hitting streak (41). In the first two rounds, Greene advanced over two-time, first-team golf All-American Lucas Glover and national player of the year and two-time men’s soccer national champ Bruce Murray.

Assessing the matchup (TigerNet staff analysis)

* “There aren't many people on the Clemson beat who can say they met luminaries like Frank Howard and Banks McFadden, but in hanging out with former Greenville News columnist Dan Foster back in the day, I was able to meet both. McFadden was gracious and a true gentleman, and I only regret I never got to watch him play. There is a reason there is a building named after him.”

* “McFadden’s versatility and accolades make him a cinch for the Clemson athlete Final Four, but Greene did post one of the more spectacular single-season efforts in the school’s history and tallied career marks that have lasted for almost two decades now.”

TigerNet staff vote: McFadden 100%

Jervey Region

Kinard profile

Played: 1978-82

* First Clemson player to earn first-team AP All-American honors in consecutive seasons (1981-82).

* Named national defensive player of the year by CBS Sports and earned unanimous All-American honors in 1982, a Clemson first.

* A College Football Hall of Famer and All-Century team member, Kinard was picked with the 10th selection in the 1983 draft by the New York Giants.

Lawrence profile

Played: 2018-current

* Led Clemson to the first 15-0 season in modern college football history and to 25 consecutive wins as a starter overall, which is the sixth-longest streak in CFB history for a starting QB.

* A two-time Manning Award finalist (nation's top QB), the consensus freshman All-American was the first true freshman to lead a team to a national title since 1985.

* Ended the 2019 season on a streak of 239-straight games without an interception, a school record), and added a running threat with 698 yards gained and the second-most rushing TDs on the team (9).

Tournament road: Kinard advanced to the Elite 8 versus Butkus Award winner and unanimous All-American Isaiah Simmons. Kinard moved to the second round over former first-team All-American outfielder Tyler Colvin and on to the Sweet 16 over ACC total yards-leader and former ACC player of the year Tajh Boyd. Lawrence again was a man of the people in topping ACC athlete and player of the year and No. 1 MLB draft pick Kris Benson in the Sweet 16. In the first two rounds, Lawrence toppled 1-seed Brianna Rollins, a three-time NCAA champion and winner of the Bowerman Award for the nation’s top track athlete, and two-time All-American tight end Bennie Cunningham.

Assessing the matchup (TigerNet staff analysis)

* “Both Kinard and Lawrence are national champs. Both can say they are All-Americans. Only Kinard can, at this point, call himself a first round draft pick in the NFL. That's the difference. For now.”

* “Kinard holds the best of both worlds in this matchup as an exceptional player and being honored for that -- and also a key member of an undefeated, national-champion Clemson team. Kinard is the pick here.”

TigerNet staff vote: Kinard 100%

Cemetery Hill Region

Spiller profile

Played: 2006-09

* Became the third unanimous All-American in Clemson history, as a kick returner, in 2009 as he tied for the national lead in return touchdowns (4) with a 33.1 yards per average. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting, which tied for a Clemson-best at the time.

* Earned Clemson’s first ACC Player of the Year honor since Michael Dean Perry as a senior -- a first Clemson ACC offensive player of the year since 1978 and quarterback Steve Fuller. Left school as the ACC’s all-purpose yards leader (7,588; second in NCAA history then) in an exclusive club with only former Heisman winner Reggie Bush with at least 3,000 rushing yards (3,547), 1,500 kickoff return yards (2,052), 1,000 receiving yards (1,420) and 500 punt return yards (569).

* Three-time track All-American as a sprinter also before a 9th overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft (Buffalo Bills).

Etienne profile

Played: 2017-current

* Clemson’s all-time rushing leader after tallying 4,038 yards and 56 touchdowns rushing (ACC-record) over 43 games as a Tiger so far. His 60 total touchdowns are also an ACC career-best (stat excludes passing TDs). Etienne’s career 7.8 yards per carry is almost two full yards better than the next-best in school history (Tavien Feaster, 5.99).

* Earned All-American honors each of the last two seasons, as well as ACC Player of the Year.

* He has Clemson’s single-season bests in rushing yards (1,658), yards per carry (8.1), total touchdowns (26) and points scored (156).

Tournament road: Etienne was a powerhouse through the first three rounds with big margins in the vote over ACC basketball legend Barbara Kennedy-Dixon (two-time All-American and ACC all-time scoring leader) and baseball’s Shane Monahan (two-time All-American) and Seth Beer (three-time All-American). Spiller was also a fan-favorite in prevailing over 1981 All-American linebacker and College Football Hall of Fame member Jeff Davis, basketball’s first-team All-ACC true freshman Skip Wise and two-time All-American and Clemson all-time sack leader Vic Beasley.

Assessing the matchup (TigerNet staff analysis)

* “This is one of the tougher matchups of the competition so far and also one of the more intriguing ones with each playing the same position. Both have earned All-American and ACC player of the year honors and hold their place in the record books. On purely stats, Etienne probably has the edge, but factoring the overall impact on a game and impact on the program, Spiller gets the narrow advantage for me. He was an impact player in the backfield, out of the backfield and on special teams for some Clemson teams that really needed that kind of weapon.”

* “I love CJ Spiller, and so much of what he's meant to Clemson is because of who and what he has been off the field. His contributions are tremendous. But when it comes down to the Elite Eight and the Final Four, it's all about how you play and what Etienne has accomplished in three years, despite not ever coming close to the number of touches a game he deserves, is mind blowing. If we play football this season, he will own the Clemson and ACC record books. That means something.”

TigerNet staff vote: 80% Spiller

Bowman Field Region

Perry profile

Played: 1981-84

* Clemson’s first three-time All-American and All-ACC honoree, including consensus first-team All-American honors in 1983 and also first-team in 1984.

* Led Division I in tackles for loss per game as a senior (2.45) and was a Lombardi Award finalist (nation’s top player), tallying 100 tackles (27 for loss) with 10 sacks.

* Perry left Clemson with the top marks in sacks (25) and tackles for loss (60; also leading the ACC all-time).

Watson profile

Played: 2014-2016

* Two-time winner of the Manning and Davey O’Brien awards (nation’s top QB) and also national player of the year in 2016 (Chic Harley Award) and national MVP in 2015 (Archie Griffin Award), as well as a finalist for the Walter Camp and Heisman trophies.

* Left Clemson third in ACC history in total offense (12,094) and also first in Clemson history in career completion percentage (.674), passing efficiency (157.5) and total offense per game (318.3) over just three seasons (including the most total offensive yards in a Clemson game with 588 vs. Pittsburgh in 2016).

* Tossed 16 passing touchdowns to only two interceptions in the fourth quarter, including a last-second TD connection to Hunter Renfrow against Alabama in the 2016 season to secure Clemson’s first national title since 1981. He tied Rodney Williams and Tajh Boyd for the most wins as a Tigers starting QB in that game (32).

Assessing the matchup (TigerNet staff analysis)

* "There is a whole wave of recruits headed to Clemson because of Deshaun Watson, and what he's accomplished here doesn't need to be repeated. But he gets the nod here because of one game - the 2016 title game against Alabama. Look, it's no secret that the Crimson Tide wanted to rattle him, to hurt him. And he took dirty shot after dirty shot and got back up with a smile on his face. That performance doesn't get the credit it deserves because of how gritty and gutty it was. Clemson climbed the mountain and it was because of Watson."

* “This is a tough one because you kind of have to do some projecting with it. Watson certainly would have been a candidate to accomplish three All-American honors like Perry with a senior year. Being named the top player at his position twice in his two fully-healthy years and adding to the lore with the school’s first national title since Perry’s 1981 team gives Watson the slight nod.”

TigerNet staff vote: Watson 100%

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