Etienne: From SEC fan to playing against Bama, a year makes a big difference


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Travis Etienne scores at South Carolina in late November
Travis Etienne scores at South Carolina in late November

CLEMSON – Travis Etienne grew up in Jennings, Louisiana – the heart of SEC country – just an hour or so away from LSU and within driving distance of Alabama – so last January it was no surprise he was pulling for the Crimson Tide in the national championship.

On January first – less than a year after Clemson took down Alabama 35-31 to claim its second national championship – Etienne will don the Tiger Paw as the Tigers once again try to slay the nation’s elite.
This time around, the freshman running back and his mother will be on the same side.

“I remember the game-winning play. Just watching the running backs, you don't really see many people get a lot of rushing yards on Bama, and you see that you have to take what you get,” Etienne told the media Wednesday afternoon. “Me and mom were sitting there. She was rooting for Clemson. I was like, They're not going to win because Bama is Bama, mom.' We watched the game in separate rooms and you could her scream when they scored the touchdown. I shy away from the conversation now. Growing up, I was a Bama fan. I was an SEC fan because I grew up around there so I always rooted for them. Throughout the recruiting process, I started watching teams and tried to put myself in their shoes.”

However, it didn’t take long – just a day – for Etienne to realize he wanted to be a part of what Clemson was building.

“When he (Tony Elliott) contacted me, I thought it was a joke because it was right after the national championship and he was contacting me - a small kid from Jennings, Louisiana,” Etienne said. “That was the breaking point for me realizing that this was meant be - me going to Clemson.”

Etienne finished the season with 103 rushing attempts for 744 yards – 7.2 yards per carry – and 15 kick returns for 324 yards, however, he said the magnitude of his freshman campaign didn’t really hit him until he was standing on the field at Bank of America Stadium after last Saturday’s win over Miami.

“It really didn't dawn on me until the night of the ACC Championship Game when it was right there in front of my face happening,” he said. “It's kind of surreal how everything happened. Last year during this time, I was a de-commit and now I'm playing for Clemson. How everything changes so fast is just surreal.”

There’s still more work to be done, though, as Clemson has the next three weeks to prepare for the College Football Playoff game against Alabama.

“It definitely is a lot but with the coaching staff that we have, they definitely make things a lot easier for us and simplify things,” he said. “We have a plan that we use week in and week out that just works. They prepare us for games like this.

“It's going to be a very physical game. They're not going to give you anything. You have to bring your A-game and be at your best every play because they're going to be there. It's going to be a hard-fought game and it's not going be a cakewalk. The game will be won in the trenches.”

While Etienne would’ve liked to see a new place and play in the Rose Bowl, he’s just as happy to Louisiana and give his teammates a tour of the place he calls home.

“I've never really been to California, but I've been to New Orleans multiple times,” he said. “I can go there whenever. California isn't in my backyard. It's always great going back home. I haven't been there since forever. I'm definitely going to enjoy getting to see my family and getting to play in the Super Dome. Growing up, I always wanted to play there but I never got the chance in high school. Now I have the chance, so it's crazy how everything works out.

“Most definitely. I will be advising everybody on what they should get and where they should go. I'm going to advise them to try everything - the whole nine yards. You'll like anywhere you go. It will be great.”

A ticket to the Sugar Bowl may be the hottest ticket in Jennings history, but Etienne said he leaving the ticket distribution details to his family.

“I left it up to my mom. I didn't want to get into that,” he said. “I'm pretty sure I have a lot of people requesting tickets and asking for tickets because all of my family is there and everyone wants to come to the game.”


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