Aside from being announced in the starting lineup each week, football fans haven’t heard Mitch Hyatt’s name called much this year. But after his impressive performance against Florida State, the true freshman left tackle was named ACC Lineman of the Week. Normally the names of linemen are only mentioned following penalties and mistakes, so Hyatt recognizes the significance of this honor.
“If your name isn’t mentioned you must be doing something right,” he said. “This means a lot.”
However, Hyatt is staying humble and recognizes that the award also says something about the team that surrounds him.
“I’m just blessed that I was even considered, let alone win it. To win that award is a big accomplishment. It doesn’t really define me, but it shows the leadership around me and how they’ve helped me grow.”
Hyatt is beginning to realize how special first year playing Clemson football has been, especially after hosting a recruit and thinking about how he was in that player’s shoes one short year ago. He never imagined his introduction to college football would be such a success.
“When I was deciding, this was the best possible scenario. I knew we’d be good, I just didn’t realize how it was going to happen.”
He said the only way his life could be any better is if the team is still undefeated in December.
Now the offensive line’s goal is to stay focused despite the team’s ranking and talk of the playoffs. Veterans like fifth year seniors Eric Mac Lain and Ryan Norton are keeping their young teammate motivated through each game. Hyatt appreciates their knowledge of the game and feels like they’re all on the same page. Despite being the youngest starter on the line, Hyatt gained a lot of experience by enrolling early.
He said, “It definitely feels like I’ve been here a while, just the fact that I’ve gotten the chance to experience a lot of things other freshmen haven’t gotten to. So it feels like I have some more knowledge about a few things than some other guys.”
Tiger fans and coaches will be watching Hyatt closely in the future to see how he grows in talent and size. So far he has shown maturity and understands what it takes to be a top player. Potential distractions don’t seem to affect him.
“You’re really only giving up a few months of your life to do something great, so that’s a small price to pay.”
He is also learning from the mistakes of his fellow freshmen, such as Ray Ray McCloud. McCloud didn’t make time to eat prior to the team’s first practice of the year, and the coaches pointed out his rookie mistake. Hyatt hasn’t forgotten that’s a simple part of staying on top of his game.
“I’ve realized throughout the season that having all of your meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – helps you offer a better performance,” he said.
The offensive line will be losing some experienced players next year, and Hyatt and his teammates are looking forward to seeing some of the young talent step into the veterans’ shoes. There will likely be some question about how the 2016 line will perform before the first game, but after his freshman year Hyatt will have experience proving doubters wrong.
Coming into this season, many suspected Clemson’s offensive line wouldn’t be able to keep up with the stout defenses they would face. Those suspicions have been quieted after several impressive performances in a row, which Hyatt takes great pride in.
“We were faced with a challenge at the season, some people weren’t sure how I was going to do this year,” he said. “I think we’ve surpassed expectations and we’ve taken the challenge head on.”