CLEMSON --- C.J. Spiller says he is staying at Clemson, at least for now. The star tailback, however, did not totally rule out transferring to Florida in the future when he met with the media on Tuesday.
“I’m going to do two years, hopefully,” he said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time. Everything is coming so fast with Coach (Burton) Burns leaving and then my situation so I just have to step back and take everything in and just go day by day.”
Burns confirmed on an Upstate radio show Tuesday morning he was leaving Clemson after eight years as the Tigers running backs coach to take a similar position at Alabama. He is reported to get an increase of almost 80 percent on his salary, bringing it over $200,000 a year. Clemson was unable to match Alabama’s offer.
Tuesday was the first time Spiller talked with the media since making his decision to stay at Clemson on Jan.9. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound freshman confirmed he told his mother he was transferring to Florida before he left last week to return to Clemson, but changed his mind after talking things over with backfield teammate James Davis and head coach Tommy Bowden.
The ride back, by himself, from his Lake Butler, Fla., home to Clemson, also gave Spiller time to rethink the situation without any outside interference.
“I just needed time for me to think because I had a lot of people telling me what I should do so I decided not to answer the (cell) phone,” he said. “Once I thought about everything and the opportunities I had this year and the opportunities I have in the future that it would be best for me to just stay here.”
The ideas of transferring to Florida popped up while Spiller was talking with his mother on the phone in Clemson before the Tigers played in the Music City Bowl. He said the idea of transferring and what it might mean to his family, most importantly to his 9-month old daughter Shania, really started hitting home when he went back to Lake Butler after the bowl game.
“After the bowl game me and my mom just sat around and just talked about football. We talked about Clemson and we talked about Florida and how they were playing in the national championship game,” Spiller said. “I was excited about them playing in that game. She just asked me a couple of questions and then the transfer thing popped up.
“It had already popped up before I went home and I took it more into consideration when I got home. I talked it over with my mom. The (wanting) to transfer had nothing to do with football, obviously, and more to do with family matters.”
Spiller did say one of the reasons he chose to stay at Clemson for now is because of the commitment he made to Bowden and the program on Signing Day last February. But he also admitted he did not expect being this far away from his family, especially his daughter, to be this tough.
“I don’t think it is fair to (Shania), but I knew this when I got into this,” he said. “That’s why I’m going home as much as possible to spend time with her. I know that is a lot of miles away and it is going to be tough on her to only see me a couple of times a week. When I go home, I’m going to spend as many hours as I can with her… I knew what it would be like when I signed with Clemson, I just didn’t know it would be that tough, but you have to go through it.”
Because he has no Friday classes this semester, Spiller says he plans on traveling back home to Lake Butler many times, and even said he is making a trip home this weekend.
Spiller has said many times in the past his mother, Patricia Watkins, is every influential in his life so when asked does this mean the talk of him transferring is over, he answered, “That’s not going to happen… We are going to do the best we can to put this behind us and move forward and take it one day at a time.”
Watkins was upset when she first learned her son changed his mind and decided to stay at Clemson. The day of the announcement, she spoke with a radio show, The Daily Journal/Messenger and other newspapers about why she was upset. Spiller says that’s no longer the case and she supports his decision to stay at Clemson.
“Once I called her back and told her that I wasn’t (transferring), she kind of got upset,” he said. “She is going to support me regardless. She is just being a mom. She wanted me close.”
Spiller said he was not surprised his mother talked to the media before he got the opportunity too. At the time she thought the Clemson coaches did not give her son a chance to tell them his side of why he wanted to transfer or just did not listen. Plus, she was upset with the fact assistant coach Dabo Swinney had not returned her calls.
Since then she has talked with both Swinney and Bowden and was in Clemson last weekend for Clemson’s football banquet.
“She is going to answer the phone calls,” he said. “It’s not like she is going to block them. I listened to the radio show up here… She said some things that she probably did not mean. She apologized to me and she apologized to Coach Swinney.”
Spiller said his mom is only looking out for his best interest and that she doesn’t have anything against Clemson or the coaching staff. For the most part, she just wants her son to be happy.
“I don’t want to say she tried to talk me into going to Florida, but who wouldn’t? That’s my mom,” he said. “We are real close. She would love to see me close (to home), but she said she will support me regardless.”
Spiller also pointed out that no one at Clemson forced him to stay either. He said Bowden spoke with him about the running back situation, especially the lack of carries he and Davis had in the bowl game and other concerns.
Spiller said he never asked for a transfer when talking with Bowden, and Bowden did not plea for him to stay.
“We just talked about football and the Kentucky game because a lot of people were upset,” Spiller said in recalling the conversation. “Of course the running backs were kind of upset about the game, but we had no control over that because we got down early and had to do what we could in order to get us back in the game. We just talked about putting this behind us and moving forward.
“I had no one up here pleading for me to stay. I didn’t get any badmouthing or nothing like that from teammates. The only thing they told me was do what was best for me.”
And the best thing for Spiller to do right now is to stay at Clemson.
“Clemson is a great atmosphere. The people here are great, the fans are great,” he said. “My decision to stay here is that I made a commitment on signing day.”
Article courtesy of the Daily Journal/Messenger.