Throughout Clemson’s 2016 national championship season, center Jay Guillermo has been a vital source of leadership, entertainment, and love for his teammates he so fondly calls his brothers.
His ability to bring joy and laughter to the Clemson football program was noted by many throughout the entire season. Whether it was impersonating coaches on team bus rides or surprising his teammates in interviews, Guillermo became one of the most prominent personalities of the top team of 2016.
There’s no question he made a huge impact on an offensive line that only allowed quarterback Deshaun Watson to be sacked just 14 and 21 times in the last two seasons, respectively. As a two-time All-ACC recipient, Guillermo was the brick that laid the foundation for a solid offensive front.
In 2016, Guillermo led a unit that ended up paving the way for four 200-yard plus rushing games – an accomplishment that the linemen pride themselves on helping the offense achieve.
Guillermo actually was one of the first members of the National Championship winning team to sign his letter-of-intent to commit to Clemson. The Tennessee native committed back in 2011, but officially signed in 2012 with now fellow graduates Carlos Watkins and Cordrea Tankersley. Coming into Clemson, Guillermo was ranked as a four-star prospect and the number one center in the country.
While he enrolled early, he redshirted his first season in 2012 and did not become a consistent starter until the 2015 season. However, a broken foot in early October of 2014 played a role in hindering him from competing to his full potential that season.
After the 2014 season, Guillermo found himself in a dark place. He fell out of love with the sport of football and told head coach Dabo Swinney he needed to get away from the program for some time to get a change of pace. At the end of February 2015, he withdrew from his classes and left Clemson to get away from the daily grind and to receive the help he needed. In his time away from football, Guillermo started to really take care of his mind and body and returned to campus for Summer Session Two in July of 2015.
As promised, Guillermo’s roster spot had been reserved for the beloved center, and he quickly impressed his teammates with his physical progress and captivating mindset. He became a leader and motivator, while his fellow Tigers helped him keep his spirits up. Players and coaches admitted it just was not the same without Guillermo, and the revitalized player took on the 2015 season with vengeance.
Guillermo became a key starter for a team that went undefeated in the regular season and competed for the national title. In the 15 games that season, he started in 13 of them, totaling 25 knockdowns in his 1,092 snaps. He ended the season as a three-time ACC Offensive Lineman-of-the-Week and a second team All-ACC selection. Although his biggest accomplishment was overcoming the off-season battle with the depression that resulted in him being named the Renwick-Flanders Most Improved Player on offense after a comeback fit for a warrior.
In 2016, Guillermo took on even more of a leadership role. He was voted by the entire team to represent the program as a permanent captain, and he continued to keep his peers laughing with constant comedic performances. He helped lead the Tigers to win their first national championship in 35 years while smiling throughout the journey.
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