Look on the top of the hill before a Clemson home game and you’ll see Woodrow Dantzler bobbing and weaving as he pierces the air with a series of left and right hooks. At first glance, you would think that the sophomore quarterback was preparing for a middleweight title fight, not a football game.
“Up there, that’s where I let all of my energy go. All that nervous tension, I let it go on the hill. Once I get down, it’s time to settle down and play,” the Orangeburg native says.
As for the shadowboxing?
“It’s just what I say: Let’s go knock ‘em out. It’s time to go knock ‘em out.”
In relief for the injured Brandon Streeter against North Carolina last Saturday, Dantzler effectively “knocked out” the Tarheels with a spectacular 56-yard touchdown run late in the game, sealing the victory and giving the Tigers their first 2-0 conference start since 1989.
Ironically, it was against the Tarheels last season when Dantzler got his first and only career start. In that game, he only accounted for 26-yards of offense in the Tiger loss. That would prove to be the last time that Dantzler saw significant action in 1998.
This Saturday in Raleigh, Dantzler will once again tackle the starting role as the Tigers take on NC State. While he says that he won’t be immune to pre-game jitters, Dantzler expects to get the job done.
“Being nervous before a game is to be expected- I’d be afraid if I wasn’t. I’ll still be a little nervous up there, but I know what to expect right now and I’ll be pretty good,” he says.
Talking with Dantzler’s teammates and coaches, you get the impression that he isn’t exactly a laid-back kind of guy to begin with.
“He doesn’t talk much but he gets really excited a lot. He has a lot of energy and I think that’s why he’s so expressive on the field,” says Tiger center Kyle Young.
After joking that it might require Valium to keep his young quarterback’s nerves in check, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden adds that Dantzler’s exuberance isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“As long as he executes the offense and remains calm and has the composure you need for the position, there’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm and emotion,” Bowden says.
While his athletic ability has never been questioned, Dantzler has been labeled by many as a run-first quarterback in his brief Clemson career despite passing for over 7,000-yards in high school.
“I’m not out to prove anything. I’m just out to help this team win any way I can. There’s no, “Well, they say I’m a runner. I need to go out and throw the ball to prove that I can throw the ball.” It’s not like that,” he says.
Whether he enjoys it or not, Dantzler understands that such increased scrutiny comes with the title of starting quarterback.
“Personally, I’m not really big on being in the spotlight. At this position, you’ve got to expect it. You’ve got to be able to handle it,” says Dantzler.
One thing is for sure: Clemson fans have no reason to worry about the stamina of their new starting quarterback. As Dantzler says:
“I just feel like I’ve got energy forever. I never get tired; I can go forever.”
With seven more games and an undersized offensive line, that’s probably a good thing.