By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Tight end Dwayne Allen has made a name for himself in 2011, becoming one of the most versatile players in college football. He was a big factor in the ACC Championship game and took home the John Mackey Award given to the best tight end each year, however the real story behind Allen’s success this year was his leadership and his teaching ability, which Clemson fans saw against Wake Forest when backup tight end Brandon Ford kept the Tigers in the game making several key plays including a touchdown that gave the Tigers momentum to eventually take the lead. With Allen toying with the idea of declaring himself to the NFL draft, Ford will have to step up even more during the offseason in order to become as much of an impact player as Allen.
“I’ve always been a leader here and there but I’ve never had a chance here to step into that role because I’ve had great leaders in front of me,” Ford said. “Not to say I was discouraged or anything, just I always respected the guys I had in front of me and learned from them. You always want to learn from the best guys in front of you and that’s how you become a leader. I know next year I‘ll be asked to do a lot more and if Dwayne leaves I know I’ll be the next guy up and I just take that as another challenge in my life, just helping this football team do better.”
What has learning under a player like Dwayne Allen meant to Ford?
“Well when he asked me to be his roommate this year I thought it was pretty awesome,” Ford said. “Just sitting in the house with him watching film not only at home but up here (West Endzone), just learning from him, it’s a whole other step. This guy works hard during the offseason, in the film room, at practice, I just learn from him and we ask each other and make sure our footwork is right every day. Sometimes I catch him on a bad night, some day s he catches me. I just look him as a guy that I learn from and when my time comes I have to make the most of it knowing that I had a great player in front of me and great coaches as well.”
With January 4th and the Discover Orange Bowl getting closer and closer, Ford believes the Tigers have done everything they can to put together a good game plan for their meeting with the West Virginia Mountaineers.
“Practice has been going pretty well, I think the coaches and Coach Swinney have a great game plan,” Ford said. “West Virginia is a good team but we’re putting a lot of stuff in trying to condition ourselves both in practice and on our own. We’re getting a lot of guys back from the Championship game, we’re trying to put together another complete game together and so far practice is going really well.”
How can a win in this game set the Tigers’ up for the 2012 season?
“It’s very important,” Ford said. “You don’t just win your conference championship to go to the BCS Bowl game and lose; you’re just setting the stage for the next group coming in and for the program. With a win it’s just letting guys know that this is what’s expected for next season. This game right here will say a lot about our program and tell young recruits coming in about the coaches, how well we’ve done this season and how well they’ve prepared us. A big win in the Orange Bowl would just show everybody that Clemson’s back and not a past history team.”