Clemson linebacker is a perfect example of why every player should be prepared to start
By Will Vandervort
When looking at the box score from Clemson’s win over Georgia Tech last year in Death Valley, the casual observer will notice the Tigers scored 17 fourth-quarter points to pull away from the Yellow Jackets in a 47-31 victory.
What the box score does not tell is how one bad play on Georgia Tech’s part led to a great play being made on Clemson’s side, while at the same time jump starting the career for one of the Tigers’ best linebackers.
Clemson had just seized a little momentum when quarterback Tajh Boyd found DeAndre Hopkins down the right sideline for a 35-yard touchdown. The packed house at Clemson Memorial Stadium erupted when Hopkins turned the table on Boyd thanks to a trick play, throwing the ball to the Tigers’ wide open quarterback for a successful two-point conversion.
With Clemson back on top, 38-31, with 10:29 to play, Georgia Tech’s Chris Milton muffed the ensuing kickoff and when he tried to recover from his mistake, he slipped down at the at two yard line.
When Milton hit the ground, the 81,000 at Death Valley got as loud as they have been in a long, long time, which set the tone for what happened next. Facing second-and-10 from their own two following an incomplete pass on first down, the Yellow Jackets tried to run around the left side of the line scrimmage with an orbit sweep to tailback Orwin Smith, but reserve middle linebacker Spencer Shuey sniffed out the play, and thanks to defensive end Corey Crawford setting the edge—causing Smith to hesitate as he looked for space to run outside—Shuey tackled Smith in the end zone for a safety.
“It was definitely safe to say that we were pretty confident they were going to run the ball,” Shuey said. “We happened to get the alignment set and get the front called and feed off the energy from the crowd. I remember it being extremely loud and electric in the stadium.
“I was able to get a great jump on the ball and was able to make a play. I definitely counted on the other guys around me to do their job, which they did, and I was able to do my job as well.”
The safety gave Clemson, who will host the Yellow Jackets Thursday night on ESPN, a nine-point lead and all but sealed the game. It was a play that turned the season around for the Tigers’ defense and jump started Shuey’s career.
Now, over a year later, Shuey looks back and smiles on what that play has meant in his life.
“It was definitely a huge turning point for me,” the Clemson linebacker said. “It is unbelievable for me to look back at this time last year when we were playing them and see how far I have come and see how much more playing time I have received and to see how much I have matured.
“It is kind of cool to look back and see how far I have come since that game.”
Since making the play that many say saved the Tigers’ season last year, Shuey has started the 16 games—the last seven at middle linebacker in 2012 and the first nine at weakside this year—and has recorded 152 tackles or 9.5 per game.
“That moment last year was extremely exciting for me and my family,” he said. “It just shows that if you are able to prepare and be ready when your number is called that is extremely important. You hope it motivates some of the younger guys to prepare like I was able to last year.
“It shows, once you get your shot you have to be ready and you have to step up.”