By Will Vandervort.
The quarterback is perhaps the only position on the football field that is measured simply by wins and losses. It’s all about how a quarterback is able to lead his team through adversity and ultimately to victory.
No quarterback at Clemson displayed that character any better than Steve Fuller. Granted Fuller did not put up the kind of numbers Tajh Boyd, Charlie Whitehurst and Woodrow Dantzler did. But remember, the position and the game was played differently during his time at Clemson.
But what Fuller did do, however, was lead a program that had not won anything in nearly two decades and turned it into a national title contender and ACC Champion before he graduated.
In 1974, Fuller, who played high school football at nearby Spartanburg, S.C., was one of the more coveted high school products in the state of South Carolina. Everyone wanted him, but he chose to come to Clemson, a program that appeared to be on the rise under then head coach Red Parker.
Though his first two years at Clemson didn’t go too well, ultimately Fuller led the Tigers to an 8-3-1 season in 1977 and to an 11-1 year in 1978 which finished with a No. 6 ranking and a win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. The 1977 season was Clemson’s first bowl appearance in 18 years, while the 1978 year marked the first time since 1967 the Tigers won an ACC Championship.
Fuller was named ACC Player of the Year after both seasons, one of just two players in ACC history to do so.
- Steve Fuller (1975-’78): Fuller started 27 consecutive games for Clemson. He was selected as a third-team All-American in 1978 and All-ACC in 1977 and 1978. He was honored with the ACC Player-of-the-Year Award both years, the only Tiger to win that award twice. At the time, he had the second best interception avoidance percentage in NCAA history (3.33). He threw for 4,339 yards and totaled 6,096 overall in his career, both Clemson records at the time. Along with his on-field success, Fuller had many academic achievements at Clemson. He is one of just three Tiger football players in history to be named an All-American on the field and in the classroom in the same year. In addition, he made the Academic All-ACC team three consecutive years, and in 1978, he was one of 11 scholar-athletes honored by the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. He was awarded an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and was chosen recipient of one of the NCAA’s Top Five Awards. Fuller graduated with a 3.93 GPA. Fuller was just the second athlete in Clemson history to have their number retired. This coming season his No. 4 jersey will come out of retirement to allow Deshaun Watson to wear it. Watson, however, will honor Fuller’s accomplishments with a patch on his jersey. Fuller was inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame in 1985 and the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991. In 1996, he was named to Clemson’s Centennial football team. He was a member of Clemson Ring of Honor Class in 1994.
- Tajh Boyd (2010-’13):
Boyd guided the Tigers to their first ACC Championship in 20 years in 2011 as well three straight 10-plus win seasons and the first back-to-back 11-win seasons in Clemson history. He was 901-1402 passing for 11,904 yards and 107 touchdowns against 39 interceptions in 47 games (40 starts) in his career. Boyd completed 64.3 percent of his passes and had a 155.2 pass efficiency rating. He also had 1,165 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns as well as 13,069 total yards. He was also responsible for an ACC-record 133 touchdowns. He had an ACC-record 107 passing touchdowns. He set 52 school records, while finishing first in school history in passing touchdowns, first in passing efficiency, first in touchdown responsibility, first in passing yards, first in completions, first in completions per game (19.2), first in passing attempts, first in completion percentage, first in total offense yards, first in total offense plays (1,907), first in 200-yard passing games (35), first in 300-yard passing games (18), first in 200-yard total offense yard games (36), first in 300-yard total offense yard games (22), first in consecutive starts at quarterback (40), first in snaps by a quarterback (2,963), first in top-25 wins by a starting quarterback (8), tied for first in wins by a starting quarterback (32), third in passing yards per attempt (8.49), fifth in interception avoidance (.0278), fifth in snaps, and tied for 10th in rushing touchdowns. Boyd currently owns 12 of the top-14 single-game passing yardage totals in school history and set the record for consecutive passing attempts without an interception (187) from 2012 to 2013. He had a 32-8 career record as a starter. The first Clemson quarterback to earn All-American honors since Steve Fuller in 1978, Boyd was a three-time All-ACC selection and a two-time First-Team All-ACC selection, also the first Tiger quarterback to do that since Fuller.
- Rodney Williams (1985-’88): There is only one word to describe Williams – winner. Williams completed his Clemson career (1985-88) as the winningest starting quarterback in ACC history with a 32-10-2 overall record. He established Clemson career records for passing yards (4,647), pass completions (333) and pass attempts (717) while setting the career record for most starts regardless of position (44). Williams finished his Clemson career in second place in total offense with 5,510 career yards and was a standout in bowl games as he was 41-of-79 for 564 yards in four bowl games. Williams was named most valuable player of the 1986 Gator Bowl and the 1988 Citrus Bowl, and became the first player in Clemson history to be MVP of two bowl games. He led the Tigers to four consecutive Bowl Games and three consecutive victories: 1986 Gator Bowl vs. Stanford, the1988 Citrus Bowl vs. Penn State and 1989 Citrus Bowl vs. Oklahoma. He is enshrined in the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
- Charlie Whitehurst (2002-’05): Whitehurst is the only quarterback in the history of the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry to go 4-0 on both squads. He will always be beloved by Clemson fans because of that and it’s the main reason why he makes this list. In 44 games with the Tigers, Whitehurst completed 817 of 1,368 passes (59.7 percent) for 9,665 yards, 49 touchdowns and 46 interceptions. He set 41 school records, including career marks for most pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, 200-yard passing games (24) and 300-yard passing games (8). He also scored 10 times while netting 98 yards on 266 carries. Whitehurst started what was a then record 37 consecutive games for the Tigers between 2002 and 2005.
- Woodrow Dantzler: (1998-2001): Dantzler was perhaps the most dynamic quarterback to ever play at Clemson. He was best known for his ability to escape pressure and make plays with his feet as well as run the football on designed rushing plays. He led the Tigers in rushing in 2000 and 2001 and in 2001, he became the first quarterback in NCAA history to throw for 2,000 yards and run for another 1,000 in the same season. Dantzler owned just about every quarterback record when he left Clemson – 46 altogether. Dantzler threw for 6,037 yards and 41 touchdowns in his career. He also ran for 2,761 yards and scored 27 touchdowns. His 68 career touchdown responsibilities rank only second to Boyd.