There is a reason why Clemson has been so good for so long on the gridiron. Before going into the locker room for the first time, the players must first check their attitude at the door.
There is a bond in the Tigers’ locker room that’s not like most places. Granted having a facility like the brand new Allen Reeves Football Complex helps, but the family like atmosphere really starts with the individuals who Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his coaching staff recruits.
The Clemson coaches have done a great job of bringing in the right type of young men that fit the culture and works well with the others regardless if they are a five-star recruit or a preferred walk-on.
“It starts with building relationships with guys,” Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. “When those freshmen came in it’s not about bossing them around because we have played before and stuff like that. It is more about letting them know that we care about them and we love them.”
Ferrell said the Clemson football team is a family, not a team. They look out for each other. They help each other both on and off the football field.
“You might be my little brother right now, but I want you to be better than me,” Ferrell explains about the mentality in the locker room. “I see the potential in those guys. If I am pushing them to be their best than that is only going to make me want to be a better player because I have those guys wanting to be just as good as I am or better.”
Ferrell, along with Christian Wilkins, Chris Register and Austin Bryant, is one of four big brothers on a Clemson defensive line that is considered one of the best in the country. The three are mentors to freshmen such as Xavier Kelly, Logan Rudolph, Justin Foster and Jordan Williams.
“It really starts with us caring for those guys. That is where it starts,” Ferrell said. “If you don’t care about someone, you are probably not going to do your best to help them out. That has been the biggest thing for me, is letting those guys know that I am here for them for anything. Not just on the football field, but off the field, too.”
It works the other way as well. Foster is already returning the favor and then some. A few weeks back, Ferrell ran over a nail and the freshman defensive end patched the tire up and put it back on Ferrell’s car. When Ferrell’s air conditioner went out the other day, Foster again stepped up and took care of it.
“He is a geek when it comes to cars,” Ferrell said. “He is a mechanic and he knows everything about cars… I don’t know how he did it. I don’t know anything about cars, but he knows everything. I think he said his dad used to race cars or something like that so that is where he fell in love with being a mechanic.”
Ferrell says what Foster did for his car was a humbling experience for him because he did not have to ask him for help, the freshman just did it. Ferrell says Foster act of kindness is just an example of what kind of family they are at Clemson.
Granted, they are all competing for playing time, but at the end of the day, they all have the same goal and that is to help Clemson win. They just don’t do it for themselves … they do it for each other.
“That’s the bond that we have. We are family,” Ferrell said. “It’s just we want to see them be their best and I don’t have any type of jealously or envy or anything like that.”
Fifth-ranked Clemson will open the new season on Saturday when it hosts Kent State at noon. The game will be televised on ESPN.