CLEMSON -- Damonte McKenzie is a survivor.
He was a part of a class that came to Clemson in 1995 with plenty of
promise. Twenty-four recruits showed up that August. There's still some
promise left in the two that are left - quarterback Brandon Streeter and
McKenzie. They're the only two of that class that have a chance to finish
their career with a bowl win.
"The other players view me as the old man," he said. "I sit down and talk to
them and tell them old war stories."
He's got plenty of stories. None involve winning bowls.
That's something McKenzie wants to change in the Peach Bowl against
Mississippi State. This is his last chance to collect a ring. He gave the
other two Peach Bowl rings to his mom and his dad. Somewhere there might be
a ring from the loss in the Gator Bowl. He's not sure. There's not much
sentimental value in a ring from a bowl loss.
"Anytime you lose, whether it's against Furman or anybody, it's
disappointing," he said.
Clemson lost to Syracuse, 41-0, in the Gator Bowl in 1995, his freshman
year. The next two years the Tigers traveled to Atlanta and lost to LSU and
Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Both were close losses and McKenzie said Clemson
"I can't really say why we lost," he said. "We practiced hard. I have no
idea what happened. I guess we prepared ourselves. The coaching staff had us
ready and we practiced hard."
He doesn't want to be one of just two players in Clemson history to
experience four bowl losses and he sure doesn't want to lose to a
Southeastern Conference team in the Peach Bowl again.
"Coach (Tommy) Bowden talked to us about rings," he said. "It would be good
to have Peach Bowl champion rather than just Peach Bowl on the ring. I think
I can speak for all the seniors when I say 7-5 would be a lot better than
6-6. Not just because I'm a senior, but for the whole team. I feel like if
we win this game, we'll crack the top-25. Winning this game against a 9-2
team I'm sure would place the team in the top 20 next year."
McKenzie, who played at Lake City, has been around long enough to know that
things are changing at Clemson. And the change started at the top, according
"I would classify him as a Y2K coach," he said. "He's is the coach for the
future. He's hands on. The other day he mentioned that when he's on the
phone for us not to stand out in the lobby and wait on him, but to come and
tap him on the shoulder. He said that's what he's there for. I like that."
McKenzie will like Bowden even more if that Peach Bowl ring says "champions."