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Best players in Clemson history: Kickers

When he thinks back to the influences he had on the Clemson-Georgia rivalry during the Eleven Year War from 1977-’87, former Clemson kicker David Treadwell does not think about his 46-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Bulldogs in 1986 or the 21-yard kick he made with two seconds to play in 1987 to beat them for a second year in a row.

Instead, he flashes back to his freshman season in 1984, when, as a walk-on, he stood on the Clemson sideline in Athens, Ga., and watched as Georgia’s Kevin Butler made a 60-yard field goal to beat the Tigers.

“That was a memory that I will never forget,” Treadwell said.

But it’s a memory that motivated Treadwell two years later when he stood on the same field, but this time he was the one lining up to kick a game-winning field goal.

“Of course it was not 60 yards,” Treadwell laughed. “I did not have the kind of leg Kevin Butler did, but I had a 46-yarder with four seconds left on the clock and truly it is a great memory. It was a great time celebrating with the team and it was a very memorable game.

“It was also a very impactful game for us as we moved forward.”

Clemson’s win over the Bulldogs in 1986 kick started—no pun intended—the Tigers on a run that saw them win four Atlantic Coast Conference Championships over the next six years—three straight from 1986-’88—as well as a then record 57 victories. Until Dabo Swinney’s Tigers won 70 games over the last six years, it was the greatest six-year stretch in Clemson history.

But the kick did more than benefit Clemson. It also motivated Treadwell for the rest of his career. Six times he won or tied a game for Clemson in the last three minutes, including four more times after his winning kick in 1986.

“That kick was huge for my confidence,” said Treadwell, who was a consensus First-Team All-American in 1987. “At the time it was early in my junior year. I was coming off a pretty good sophomore campaign and I wanted to back that up. Anytime you can make a kick like that in hostile territory against a big rival, it’s huge for your confidence.

“I was able to take that and continue to get better and better. I think with kicking, and there are a lot of guys that have the physical abilities, but it is the mental toughness that will get you through those situations. They are not going to all go through (the uprights) unfortunately, no matter how hard you work. You just can’t let those few that don’t get to you.”

One of Treadwell’s six kicks in the final three minutes came in the 1987 Clemson-Georgia clash in Death Valley when his 21-yard field goal with two seconds to play lifted the Tigers to a 21-20 victory over 18th-ranked Georgia.

“Actually, I probably felt more a part of that game because I had four field goals on the day,” Treadwell said.

Treadwell, who played at Clemson from 1985-’87, was a Consensus All-American in 1987 when he connected on 18 of 22 field goals. Known as “Mr. Clutch” at Clemson, six times he won or tied a game for Clemson in the last three minutes.

Honorable mentions:

Chandler Catanzaro (2010-’13): His career is very similar to Treadwell’s as he struggled early on, but as he got more mature and was involved in more big-time kicks he became one the best kickers in Clemson history. Catanzaro is best known for his game-winning kick to beat LSU in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl, but in his career he made 67 of 82 field goals. His 67 field goals rank second all-time at Clemson, while his 81.7 percent accuracy is also second all-time. He scored a school record 404 points and made a school record 203 extra points.

Chris Gardocki (1988-’90):  Before he became an All-Pro punter and won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gardocki was one of the best kickers in the country at Clemson. He averaged 19 field goals a year in his career at Clemson, including 22 in 1989 and in 1990. He made 63 for his career, including a career long 57-yard field goal. Only he and Donald Igwebuike have made five or more field goals of 50 plus yards in their careers.

Obed Ariri (1977-’80): Ariri was the first of a long line of great kickers at Clemson from 1977-’94. A First-Team All-American in 1980, his 57-yard field goal against Duke in 1980 was an NCAA record at the time. He made a Clemson record at the time 23 field goals in 1980. He made 63 for his career and scored 288 points.

Nelson Welch (1991-’94): Ariri started it in 1977 and Welch ended the great run of kickers at Clemson from 1977-’94. Welch still owns the Clemson record for field goals in a career with 72 and he owns the career mark of kicks from 40 yards or more with 21. He is best remembered for his game-winning field goal in Clemson’s 29-28 come-from-behind victory over Virginia in 1992. That kick completed the Tigers and the ACC’s biggest comeback in history involving two ACC teams. Clemson trailed 28-0 at one point in the second quarter.

 

–Photo Courtesy Clemson Athletic Communications 

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