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Jadar Johnson: "That was big"

Sep 3, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA;  Clemson Tigers safety Jadar Johnson (18) pulls in an interception against the Auburn Tigers during the third quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson safety Jadar Johnson met with the media Tuesday following Clemson’s 56-7 victory over South Carolina on Saturday. He spoke on his achievement as an All-ACC player, the pregame scuffle with South Carolina and more.

Q: How happy were you to hear that you were All-ACC?

Johnson: “Oh, that was big, man. It was so big, and it just surprised me. It just wasn’t really on my mind. I wasn’t really thinking about things like that. I was just so excited. It’s really a blessing.”

Q: That early interception really shook South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley a bit. Did you bait him into it or jump the route? Take us through that play.

Johnson: “Oh yeah, definitely. It really just came from film study. It’s a little key he gave me; I don’t want to give it away. I don’t want to give it out, I don’t want to give the secret out, but he did key on that play. So I knew he was going there, and I just ran to the ball.”

Q: Can you talk about the scuffle that took place before the game?

Johnson: What happened was the DBs were warming up, and you know we warm up in that little corner of the end zone, and there were just a few guys standing in the way purposely. We asked them to move one time, and they wouldn’t move. One of their coaches went up and asked them to move, and they still wouldn’t move. So we kind of slid over a little bit and started going the other way, and they still wouldn’t move, and we had punts coming down in our area and we were tripping all over the balls. We literally had to dodge them to kind of finish our drill. So, I went up to one of the dudes. I don’t really know who it is because I don’t know them by face, and I asked him to move, and he just immediately got mad. It just went from there. The receivers then came over and they saw the big crowd. It looked a lot bigger than it really was. There really wasn’t that much going on. It was only an exchange of a few words.”

Q: There was a pretty serious charge South Carolina made about racial slurs. Is there any reason why?

Johnson: “Nah. I mean from the little altercation we had down there, I didn’t hear any racial slurs, and I don’t know how accurate I am with what I heard, but I heard that they tried to accuse some linemen of it. That couldn’t have happened then because there were no lineman over there when that happened. I’m pretty sure they were talking of things that maybe happened during the game. But from what I saw in the little pregame altercation there were no racial slurs going on.

Q: What do you have to do to handle Bucky Hodges out there, a 6’7 tough tight end?

Johnson: “I don’t think we have to do anything special to stop him. He’s not really a big mismatch to the guys that we have on the defense. I feel like our safeties can cover him in the slot, and they also like to flex him out into the slot and I feel like we have good-sized corners out there who can stop him. But he’s definitely a good player. I’ve watched a lot of film on him, and he’s definitely a good player, but I don’t feel like we have to do anything extraordinary to stop him.”

Q: When you got here, what was your expectation for your four years?

Johnson: “The crazy thing is that when I first got here I didn’t really have a vision of what I was going to be and what I was going to do here. I just came here young-minded, you know, ready for college. I got here, and I struggled at first and really wanted to go back home. But coach wouldn’t let me go home, but he let me take a weekend off my first spring, and I came back and I was really just trying to make it through. I really didn’t have any goals set, no clear vision of what I wanted to do — that really came later in my years. That’s probably why I didn’t play as much as I should have in my early years, but as I got older and more mature, my vision became clearer and I set goals for myself and I really became a better player because of it.”

Q: How do you feel about the opportunity to win back-to-back ACC championships and be a part of a distinct group doing something that hasn’t been done in 28 years?

Johnson: “I try not to think about it too much, although it is hard not to think about. That would definitely be a big deal. Just because not many people have done that before, period. It would definitely be a big thing for us as a team, writing our legacy. That’s a big thing we’re focusing on now is just writing our legacy. Coach Swinney talks about that a lot like, “What’s going to be your legacy?” Obviously winning back-to-back ACC championships would be a good thing to leave behind, but I try not to think about it too much just because when you look at the big picture, you tend to lose sight of the little things, and it’s the little things that count the most. I try not to think about it, but it’s definitely in the back of my mind.”

Q: How did you see the attitudes change the next practice after that Pitt loss?

Johnson: “Yeah, after that Pitt loss, it definitely pissed a lot of guys off. That practice, everyone was doing that little extra, and it was really intense. I would never want to wish a loss on a team, but I feel like that was one of the best things that happened to us this season, and I’m happy it came at the time that it did, not later. Not in a game like the ACC championship when it would be too late and kind of put a dagger in our heart. It happened at the perfect time to get us locked back in and focused for the latter part of the season. It’s all about the fourth quarter. Nothing means more than the fourth quarter. Being able to get that focus back right before the finish of the season was big for us. Ben got a little meeting together and he talked to us right after the Pitt loss, and everyone got out to practice and went crazy hard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a practice that hard. Everyone was just locked in, and it showed. We played a great game against Wake Forest, and then after that the team felt like we needed to lift it another notch, and we did that against South Carolina. So, right now I feel like we are that point where we are elevating. And I feel like there’s more to go and we haven’t played our best game of football yet.”

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