Clemson center Jay Guillermo spoke with the media Tuesday afternoon following No. 3 Clemson’s 56-7 victory over rival South Carolina. As Guillermo and the Tigers head to Orlando this weekend to play No. 18 Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game, he previews the matchup and reflects on his journey that led him to where he is now.
Question: There have been so many accomplishments around here in the past five or six years. How much would it mean to you to be a part of a team that won back-to-back ACC Championship titles?
Guillermo: “It doesn’t happen every day. It’s really hard to do, especially in a really good conference like we’re in. Just trying to get to that level of consistency. It goes back to the guys that paved the way back in 2012 and 2013. It’s really special and something that would be very special for me and all the other seniors to be able to leave our mark on this university.”
Question: What do you know about this Virginia Tech team?
Guillermo: “Really, really good football team. Disciplined. They play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. They play hard, they play fast. Defensively, they don’t miss a lot of assignments. Coach (Bud) Foster is one of the best in the business. They buy into that ‘working man’s’ mentality. Real blue collar. Something you appreciate watching on film, to be honest. It’s going to be a really good challenge for us.”
Question: How much can you guys use last week’s dominant performance against South Carolina as a momentum booster heading into the ACC Championship game?
Guillermo: “Oh, yeah. It gives you a lot of momentum. It gives you confidence in what you’re doing. They had the same kind of win, though. So they’re going to be flying high.”
Question: What was your message to South Carolina’s Dante Sawyer regarding the racial slur situation?
Guillermo: “Just kind of between me and him. We had just talked about it, and I let him know that that’s not what we do. If anything was said, that’s not how we are and not what we are as an offensive line or as a team. We have a good culture around here, a really classy culture. Obviously that’s something that coach Swinney really prides himself on is recruiting good people, having good people here, and we do have good people here. But what was said between me and him, we’ll keep it between us. Nothing bad was said or anything like that.”
Question: How much does it mean to you to be recognized by the ACC media yesterday?
Guillermo: “Really happy for not only myself, but for a lot of people. To have three offensive linemen — I think they said it’s never been done at Clemson — on the first team is so special.”
Question: Do you find yourself more reflective now on your time here at Clemson as the season winds down?
Guillermo: “Yeah, a little bit. I find myself reflecting a little bit more than I have in the past, but there will be plenty of time for that after January 9th. So, just gotta keep playing football, keep playing good football, and hopefully leave here the way I want to.”
Question: Do you take a lot of pride or motivation in the fact that you being so vocal about your story has really been an inspiration to a lot of people?
Guillermo: “What’s the point of having a story if you don’t tell it? I’m really glad that I could be an inspiration for people.”
Question: Is your individual and team success sweeter after coming through his journey?
Guillermo: “Any time you can look back and marvel on your hard work and everything you’ve been through, I guess it does make it a little bit sweeter just knowing that you did things, like coach Swinney says, the ‘uncommon way.’ My path through these past five years hasn’t been very common. Looking back on it, it does make it a little bit sweeter to know that end result and kind of wrapping it all up has been so good. Anybody can do it if I can do it. I was in a pretty dark place, and it’s never too late to get help. It’s something that more people deal with than you’d think, and that’s something that I really had to learn. I learned that it’s ok to talk about it. As soon as I learned that it was ok to talk about it, it became comforting to me. It was almost like therapy to be able to tell all you guys (media) my story. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, I promise.”