Elliott says kissing one of his sons goodbye one of the hardest things he's had to do


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Travis Etienne had another big day for the Tigers
Travis Etienne had another big day for the Tigers

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – The memory of CJ Fuller has been a constant presence around the Clemson football facility since last Wednesday, with coaches and players alike carrying thoughts of Fuller into Saturday’s 63-3 victory over Wake Forest.

However, running backs coach Tony Elliott made sure that all of his players knew that while remembering Fuller was important, each and every one needed to look inside for motivation and play for the most important person in the room – themselves.

“What I told the players was do it for yourself. We are not going to celebrate his death, we are going to celebrate his life,” Elliott said. “He taught us that you can't take any day granted. My message to the players was that they were playing for themselves because they had an opportunity to wake up this morning and go do it. And CJ wouldn't want you to do anything other than go out and be your best. That was the message, but as a group, we knew what we were playing for today.”

Clemson had three players reach the 100-yard rushing mark in a single game for only the sixth time in school history. It's the program's first time accomplishing the feat since Sept. 30, 2006, vs. Louisiana Tech (James Davis, CJ Spiller, Demerick Chancellor).

Clemson set a new school record, averaging 11.8 yards per carry. The previous single-game record (11.2 YPC) stood for 115 years. The margin of victory as the largest against an ACC opponent in school history, and the second-largest point total against an ACC opponent since the Tigers defeated Wake Forest 82-24 in the 1980's.

Clemson went over 400 yards rushing for the first time since the 2015 Miami game when they rushed for 415 yards. The Tigers rushed for 471 yards, including five scoring runs of 52 yards or more. Clemson had 698 yards of total offense.

The emotional game put a cap on a tough week in which Elliott had to tell one of his sons goodbye.

“You know, it's been a tough week. For those that know me, they know how I feel about my guys, and I feel like they are my sons,” he said. “When I got up and addressed the team I told them that was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, was kiss one of my sons goodbye. My heart goes out to his family. We are going to celebrate his life tomorrow. What you saw tonight was a group of guys that were inspired. I told them, look, we don't need to do anything special. Just be yourself in every single play and appreciate that you have life and you have an opportunity to do that. The rest of the offense rallied around them - they knew they were hurting and everybody came together and we couldn't have had a better night running the football.”

Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said the Tigers played with a heavy heart.

“The players and coaches played and coached with a heavy heart all week long and really thinking about C.J. and the Fuller family - Christy and Charlie,” Scott said. “There were a lot of times today that we were thinking about them and we'll be there tomorrow to celebrate C.J.'s life.”

Scott said he hopes Fuller is proud of Saturday’s effort.

“It was fitting and that's what Coach Swinney was just telling the team,” Scott said. “C.J., I promise you is up there proud of his guys watching us run the ball today. Those guys wanted to honor him in the way that they play and they did that today.”

Adam Choice said the running backs feel like they’ve lost a brother.

“It was a great day for the backs overall. We lost a brother and we felt like this was a great way to honor him by the way we played today. We thought we represented him and what he stood for well,” Choice said. “We came in together so we were together for four years. It hurt me when I found out he was transferring, but at the end of the day, I respected it and wished him the best. We build a bond in that room no matter who it is. That's my brother for life and when I found out he was gone, it really hurt me but I know he's in a better place.

“C.J. was a fearless player. He played hard and gave it everything he had. We wanted to embody what he stood for today when we stepped out on the field, so we took pride today in our performance. I won't say more than any other time but today it just felt like we needed to do it a little more for him just to show that we appreciate him and what he taught us and what he gave us. It was a great way to honor him.”

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