By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — The first time Tajh Boyd took snaps from Dalton Freeman, he admitted he was nervous. He wasn’t sure how he was going to do and he did not want to mess up.
Freeman was already a two-year starter at center for the Clemson Tigers where he already helped the team win an Atlantic Division title and blocked for a quarterback in Kyle Parker that became the first collegiate athlete to throw 20 touchdown passes and hit 20 home runs in the same year.
“Going from scout team to playing with a guy like this, he is one of the greatest players I have been around,” Boyd said.
That might be the case, but Boyd is also one of the greatest players Freeman has been around as well. The Clemson quarterback, along with Freeman was named First-Team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) on Wednesday. Later that afternoon, Boyd became the first Clemson quarterback since Steve Fuller in 1978 to be named ACC Player of the Year.
Fuller won that honor in both 1977 and ’78 and is still the only player in ACC history to win it in back-to-back years.
“I got a chance to sit down and talk to Coach (Chad) Morris yesterday and reflect about all the work that is put into it,” Boyd said. “We talked about the whole process, the off-season and things of that nature.
“We get a chance to share this with everybody else, parents and special friends. I’m really just trying to represent this university the best way possible and that is the way I kind of look at it. A lot of work went into it, and I’m very glad to be in this situation.”
Boyd finished the regular season with 3,550 yards, while accounting for 43 touchdowns. His 43 touchdowns and 34 touchdown passes were both ACC records. He is currently first in the nation in points per game (21.8), fourth in passing efficiency (168.5), fourth in touchdown passes (34) and ninth in total offense (336.8 yards).
Boyd has set 11 Clemson records in a game, season and career basis this season.
“No one really knows the work that goes into it unless you have played this game,” Boyd said. “Anytime you get a chance to go out there and perform you think about all of those times when it is five o’clock in the morning, it’s cold and it’s raining.
“You think about that throughout the course of the season and throughout the course of practice and you try to play to the best of your ability. There is a lot that goes into it.”
Freeman started all 12 games at Clemson this year and has played in 48 straight in his career. When he starts the bowl game, he will tie Landon Walker with the Clemson record for consecutive games. The senior already owns the record for the most snaps in a career by a Clemson player.
“We are close both on and off the field,” Freeman said of his relationship with Boyd. “You have to be able to have a relationship that goes beyond the lines of the field. That immediately took over for us. It was natural. We put in a ton of work in the winter, the spring and the summer trying to get on the same page.
“We got to where I would make my calls and then he would do his thing and then we both look at each other at the same time, and we were like, ‘let’s go.’”
Boyd and Freeman are the first quarterback and center duo in Clemson history to be named to a First-Team All-American squad, and just the third quarterback-center combo in the history of the AFCA to be named to the first-team in the same year.
“This is a landmark accomplishment,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “You don’t see your program getting first-team all-Americans very often. Both young men have been great leaders to our program for more than just this year.”