CLEMSON - Talk about your adjustment periods.
One year ago today the 19 freshmen who began their college football careers
at Clemson Tuesday were all big men on high school campuses. Easily the best
athlete on his team at the time, each of the young men commanded respect
among fellow high school friends and teammates simply by being a football
No such admiration was forthcoming Tuesday, however. Over the course of two
practices the freshmen received the anticipated indoctrination into college
football, quickly learning that most everybody on a college scholarship was
"the man" in high school.
Elevating to that level at Clemson will require patience and extremely hard
work, probably over a five-year period.
In other words, welcome to anonymity.
"Everybody in the room with them (Monday) night was that guy," head coach
Tommy Bowden said following Tuesday's final workout. "That environment's
changed. And now you're getting a little more individualized, where your
(coaching) staff's a little bigger and your drills are more specific.
"It just takes time, so the biggest thing you try to tell them is be patient.
They all want to come in here and play, so I try to tell them a story about a
guy like Rod Gardner."
Clemson's 2005 offensive line?
Gardner, of course, was the Tigers' go-to receiver as a junior and senior,
pulling down seemingly every important reception and elevating his game to a
different level almost every week.
He now makes millions of dollars catching passes for the NFL's Washington
Redskins. But the point of Bowden's story is where Gardner stood after three
years in the Clemson program.
"After his redshirt sophomore year he only had 20 catches," Bowden said.
"Next thing you know he jumped up there with 80. So if I grabbed any of these
guys and said be patient, get your college degree and in five years you'll be
a millionaire, the'd take it.
"But they all want to play right away, and you have to tell them to be
patient and not put a lot of pressure on themselves."
Fortunately for Bowden, the yearly preaching appears to be paying off.
In his first three seasons, only one incoming freshman - Grant Oliver in 2001
- left the team after just a few days of practice. Every other player
entering the Clemson program during that period has heeded Bowden's advice,
though he said practically all of them thought about choosing Oliver's path
at one time or another.
"Quitting going to go through every one of their minds," Bowden said. "You
try to prepare them mentally for when that comes up, because they're going to
get yelled at...they're going to get tired, they're going to get sore. I
don't know if it's psychology or what, but you try to explain it to them.
"What's going to go through their mind in the next few days goes through
- Bowden opened his first press conference of the day with a brief statement
concerning Justin Miller's recent legal troubles.
Miller, 18, was arrested and charged with DUI last month in his hometown of
"He comes from a good family and he's already getting some counseling,"
Bowden said. "It will be handled through normal university channels, and I'll
handle it like I would anything else."
He refused further comment on the matter.
- Quarterback Will Proctor found himself answering questions more suited for
the celebrity tabloids than football practice Tuesday, all due to an Internet
rumor circulating that he is dating or has dated singer Britney Spears.
"I'd like to dispel that rumor right now. I'd don't know her and I've never
met her," Proctor said. "I've seen it on the Internet a couple of times, but
I've never met her. I was pretty surprised when I saw that."
It turns out a friend of Proctor's does know Spears, but the two have never
been introduced. The rumors of their relationship had spread to the point
that speculation was Spears would be on campus at some point this fall to
sing the National Anthem at a Clemson home game.
Still, he didn't seem to mind the insinuation.
"I guess there could be worse rumors running around about me," he said with a
- The freshmen will practice twice again Wednesday. The upperclassmen are due to
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Florence Morning News. He also hosts SportsTalk from 10 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.