Judging by the long lines of fans waiting to get Willie Simmons' autograph, it has taken the freshman quarterback all of two weeks to become “the man” in the eyes of Tigers faithful.
“This is unbelievable. I never expected anything like this,” Simmons said as he scribbled his name on yet another football.
“It’s great to see how the fans appreciate Clemson football.”
Tiger freshmen got their first taste of the celebrity that comes with being a Clemson football player as they came face to face with 5,000 fans Sunday during Fan Appreciation Day in Littlejohn Coliseum.
“This is flattering. I’ve never given an autograph before,” said defensive back Marcus Houskin.
Sunday’s break from practice was welcome respite for Tiger freshmen from the rigors of learning an entirely new system.
While running back Bernard Rambert says his first few days of practice have gone smoothly, he adds, “I just didn’t realize how fast the college game moves. Bodies are flying around everywhere.”
Simmons echoes Rambert’s comments regarding the pace of the college game.
“It’s a different world as far as how fast things move but I’m picking it up. I’ve just got to stay on top of my game and learn something new each day.”
As the heir to the quarterback position at Clemson, Simmons faces perhaps the most pressure of any member of Tommy Bowden’s first recruiting class as he attempts to master the “Indy” offense.
“I’m picking up a lot of the reads and the schemes we’re trying to implement. I think the offense is coming along pretty well,” he said.
Houskin admits that he’s encountered difficulties with his position change.
“I’m having a few problems. At first I was playing strong safety and now they’ve moved me to free safety so I’ve had some problems picking up the system. I know I’m just a freshman so I know I’m eventually get it,” he said.
Tiger fans are counting on the freshman class to “get it” in a hurry. As one man said to rookie running back Chad Jasmin, “Y’all are the future,” a fan behind him added, “The future starts in three weeks.”
Welcome to Clemson football, freshman class of ‘99.