Raising Cain: Deon Cain working on his game, working on life


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Cain is always willing to put in the extra work
Cain is always willing to put in the extra work

CLEMSON – Practice had just finished, and most of Clemson’s players laughed and joked as they made the short walk from the practice fields to the new football operations center, ready to grab a quick shower and leave the world of football behind. Not Deon Cain.

Cain grabbed fellow receivers Ray-Ray McCloud, Diondre Overton, Cornell Powell and Trevion Thompson and headed inside the indoor practice facility, where he enlisted a group of student managers to run the football JUGS machine.

The group caught pass after pass – one-handed, two-handed, facing forwards, facing backwards, back shoulder. There was a bit of good-natured ribbing and the group was having fun competing against each other, but Cain took the work serious.

He’s ready to lead. He’s ready to be the star he knows he can be. And while he wants to be a better player, he’s also older, wiser and more mature and says his goal is to be a better person than he was the day before.

Cain easily ticks off the parts of his game he wants to improve, but acknowledges his growth as a person in the same breath.

“I want to become a more efficient route runner and work on finishing my plays Just the little things, technique coming off the ball and being physical at the point of attack,” Cain told TigerNet. “I always find something I need to improve on when I watch film. Every day I am not 100 percent and I am not trying to be 100 percent. I just want to be a better person than I was yesterday.”

Cain caught 38 passes for 724 yards and nine touchdowns last season, averaging a whopping 19.05 yards per catch. It was a slight uptick from his freshman season when he caught 34 passes for 582 yards and seven scores. Cain’s value as a deep threat sticks out on the stat page – he caught half the number of passes as Artavis Scott (38 to 76), but had 110 more receiving yards (724 to 614). He was sixth on the team in receptions, but finished just 12 yards behind Jordan Leggett (736 to 724) in receiving yards, good for third on the team.

Cain’s talent has never been in question. He’s always had the talent to be a star at this level and the next. The question his freshman season centered on whether he could stay out of Dabo Swinney’s doghouse long enough to contribute. His missteps during his freshman season are well-documented, but Cain doesn’t dwell on the past, and he doesn’t want to talk about it.

He’s looking ahead, not back.

“I do think about how far I’ve come from time to time, but I really just want to keep looking forward.,” he said. “Let the past be the past and make it up in the future.”

Cain will likely take over the “9-man” receiving spot that belonged to Mike Williams last season. Before Williams, it belonged to players like Sammy Watkins, Nuk Hopkins and Martavis Bryant. But Cain is cross-training at all of the positions, and his desire to be the best is why he’s taken on the mantle as a team leader.

It’s why he stays over after practice, catching balls as long as someone is there with him.

But he’s not only challenging himself, he’s challenging his position group.

“Route running, finishing plays and becoming a better practice player are the things I want to work on,” he said. “We want to get better as a group, and we challenge each other, trying to use our bodies in different ways to catch balls. We want to get better as a whole, so as a whole we can look good.”

Cain didn’t like the way the offense finished the first half of spring practice, and he has a goal for when practice starts back Monday. It’s what a team leader does, even though Cain admits several leaders are beginning to emerge.

“It’s mostly just staying focused. I don't feel like we were focused going in, and we have to bring that spark back. We have to stay consistent and focused,” he said. “All of our quarterbacks are stepping up as leaders. Ray-Ray McCloud is stepping up. You have Maverick Morris and Mitch Hyatt. I think everybody is stepping up, because they see we need everybody, not just the first four or five players. We need everybody, even the backups. “

Cain played quarterback in high school, and he’s putting those leadership skills to good use now. And yes, he’s a better player, but he wants everyone to know he’s working on more than just his game.

He’s working on life.

“Just being a quarterback from my previous experience and having that leadership role is something that I was used to,” Cain said. “And it's something that I wanted to show my team that I am. I just know with me being out there and showing my skill, leading them makes me a better person.”


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