Deon Cain on his suspension: "I take the blame"


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Cain just misses a catch Saturday
Cain just misses a catch Saturday

CLEMSON – The pain of knowing he’s let his teammates down and that he wouldn’t be available for two of the biggest Clemson games in decades weighed heavy on Deon Cain. So heavy that he decided he couldn’t watch the National Championship game against Alabama.

Instead, he turned off all of the notifications on his phone, went out to eat with his girlfriend and stayed away from the game until late that night when he learned the news that his coaches and teammates had come up short against Alabama.

Cain, who was sent home and suspended by head coach Dabo Swinney before the Orange Bowl, finally gave in and watched the game over the summer.

“I watched the Orange Bowl, but I didn't watch the National Championship. I felt like I know I wanted to be in that game and I just couldn't watch it being in the predicament I was in,” Cain told the media Monday, his first availability since last fall. “I know how hard our team worked last year. It felt like I let my team down just not being in that game. That was it.

“I don't remember what I did. I was probably with my girlfriend, so we probably went out to eat. I was just trying to get my mind off of football and find a hole to myself. I knew what happened that night, but I didn't watch the details of the game. I finished the game this summer when I watched it on YouTube. I really saw what happened. It was a hard moment for me to watch it, but it's all fine now that I'm back with the team and we're all in good graces.”

Cain says he doesn’t know if his presence would have made a difference.

“I can't really say because I could've been in there and dropped passes or missed assignments, too. I can't really say that I would've made this play or that play if I wasn't physically there,” he said. “I just know that my team could've needed me in certain situations throughout the game.”

Cain not only missed the two final games of the year, Swinney kept Cain away from the practice field during the spring, something that he says has made him more of a student of the game.

“I reacted fine to it. It made me more mature because I had to do duties that they wanted me to do and those requirements,” Cain said. “It felt good, and it made me a better person. It was a great time for me because I learned more of the playbook and the other positions. I learned the whole concept of the playbook and why we run this or do this. I put in extra time by myself weight running or weight training or running routes by myself.

“I'm very fortunate that Deshaun (Watson) would stay after a hard practice with me to just throw a few routes. I just needed to keep our timing down. I was doing a lot of stuff on my own to get bigger and faster and stronger. I gained over 15 pounds and got myself stronger and mentally focused because I knew the upcoming season was going to be great and I needed to get ready for it.”

Cain also said he understands why Swinney made the decision that was made.

“It was little things that I was doing. It was his decision to sit me because I was affecting the team with my decisions,” he said. “I feel like I did that too, but at the time I didn't understand why he was doing it, but then I understood. He still has a program and team to run, and you don't want anything to make our whole program look bad, so I had to sit down and realize that I had to get myself right to help this team.

“It was a little tough. I take the blame for it for not making smart decisions on my own. I improved myself and really seeing the bigger picture about this football team, myself in general and what I want to accomplish in life. It was a tough time for me, but it was also a time for me to figure out myself and have a plan of what I want to do while I'm here. I think it was a time that I needed. I'm just holding myself accountable on and off the field, just little things like that. It wasn't anything too major that I was getting into. It was just being accountable. I was young, and I really had to grow up and see the bigger picture of the college life.”

Many fans feared that the tough love and discipline would cause the talented playmaker to look elsewhere, but Cain says that was never the case.

“I would never leave this program because they haven't done anything bad to me, ” he said. “I put this program on a pedestal because they've done a lot of stuff to help me. I just wasn't mature enough to see the opportunity they were giving me.”

His mother – Celia Thompson – kept Cain grounded and on track throughout the process.

“She kept me positive and just showed me what was really in front of me. I can't say that I did it on my own. I got closer to my family and really just tried to get in touch with them,” Cain said. “I know, and they know that I have a big future in front of me and goals that I want to set that I've been working towards my whole life. It's not something that I want to throw away. I had to sit down and get to know myself and just put into perspective what I want to do in the future.”

The hard work paid off with a touchdown catch Saturday in the 30-24 win over Troy.

“It felt pretty good to just get that momentum back to myself,” he said. “I'm just one of many, but it always feels good to get a touchdown and celebrate with your teammates.”

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