COVID diagnosis, wife's illness were only part of a rough 2020 for Tony Elliott
|Wednesday, March 3, 2021, 6:37 PM- -|
Tony Elliott walked off the Tigers' practice field in late December and learned that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would have to miss the College Football Playoff Sugar Bowl against Ohio St. One of his first thoughts was, 'What have I done?’
Elliott watched the Tigers’ Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio St. from his home in Clemson as head coach Dabo Swinney and quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter called the plays against the Buckeyes. Elliott met with the media Wednesday for the first time since that day, and he detailed the range of emotions he experienced as he struggled with the consequences of COVID.
“It was probably harder the first couple of days, just the initial shock. I had no idea it happened,” Elliott said. We were walking off the practice field after our final walk-thru, and I thought I was being summonsed over to the side to talk about possibly an injured player. When they told me, I broke down. It was disappointing. I started thinking immediately, 'What have I done?' But by the time we got to the game and I was able to be a part of the preparation, I knew the guys were ready to play.
“I was just excited to see them play and thought they did a good job early on. And then it was a little bit tougher towards the middle part of the game when things weren't going our way. But by the time I got to the game I centered myself and found my peace and understanding that God doesn't say, 'Oops' and that everything happens for a reason. But as the game went on, to see the guys struggle and to know I wasn't there to help them out, that is when it started to hurt.”
Elliott then went on to detail the struggles he faced in 2020, including an undiagnosed illness with his wife Tamika.
“2020 was challenging and it started off a little bit rougher in my family than some people know. My wife came down with an illness right before the pandemic and we were struggling to try and figure out a diagnosis,” Elliott said. “We haven't figured out a diagnosis but we have found some medication that can keep her balanced out so she can get back to normal. So that, and then the pandemic, and then you are going through all the different things from a country standpoint - from the social justice perspective - it was tough on everybody. So there was an appreciation for the true value of people. The only way we were able to get through it as a program was to rely on each other and count on each other. To find joy in other people's success and then find pain in their adversity.”
There were lessons aplenty in the year that was 2020.
“So what I took from last year is that nothing is promised and you can't take anything for granted. You have to appreciate every single day and truly operate from a place of joy regardless of what the circumstances are around you,” Elliott said. “You have to wake up every single day with joy. Not being there with the team illustrated to me that I am not bigger than the team and no one person is bigger than the team. We never know when our number is gonna come up and we aren't going to be a part of the team and we are going to be on the sideline not able to help. So, when you do get an opportunity you make the most out of every single day. That is the big picture thing that I learned in 2020 from the pandemic to my wife's situation to the bowl game is to not take anything for granted.”