Former Tiger greats Woolford, Spiers will join long line of former players who’ve come back to earn college degrees
The last time Bill Spiers heard Clemson cheers directed towards him came in 1987 when he was playing for Bill Wilhelm’s Tigers on the baseball diamond.
Donnell Woolford had not heard it since he and his Clemson teammates downed South Carolina in his final game at Death Valley in 1988.
But next week, the two former All-Americans, who went on to great careers in Major League Baseball and the NFL, will hear those cheers one more time as they walk across the stage at Littlejohn Coliseum to receive their degrees.
“I just think is awesome to see those guys come back and finish,” Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney said.
Spiers and Woolford are two of many former Clemson athletes who have returned to school to earn their college degrees after their pro careers came to an end. In recent years, guys like former running back Terry Allen and wide receiver Keith Jennings came back to school and earned their college degrees.
“It just says a lot. I think it sends a great message to your current players,” Swinney said. “Here are guys that are fifty (years old) walking across the stage because it means something. It sends a big message.”
It also enhances what Swinney and his staff talks about all the time to the current players, the value of a college education.
“That is the culture that we have. There is no doubt about it,” the Clemson coach said. “The guys that have not finished yet, they are going to finish.”
During his 10 seasons at Clemson, 92 percent of Swinney’s seniors have earned their college degrees, while most former players, who may not have earned their Clemson degrees, are still pursuing their education even as they play in the NFL.
Former Clemson quarterback and baseball star Kyle Parker will also receive his degree next week. Like Spiers, Woolford, Allen and Jennings, Parker worked on Swinney’s staff as a volunteer student coach this past season. He is also serving as a color analyst this baseball season on the ACC Network.
Parker was an All-American for the Clemson baseball team in 2010, while becoming the only athlete in NCAA history to throw 20 touchdown passes and hit 20 home runs in the same academic year. He went on to become a first-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2010.
From 2011-’15, Clemson was the only FBS program that could claim a top 10 ranking on the field and a top 10 APR score.
“I’m proud of those guys,” Swinney said. “We have had several that have come through, but Donnell and Bill have been awesome. They have done a good job for us and I am really happy to see them accomplish that.”
Woolford was an All-American cornerback at Clemson in 1987 and ’88, including a consensus First-Team selection in 1988. He lettered at Clemson from 1985-’88 and then went on to play nine seasons in the NFL after being drafted No. 11 overall by the Chicago Bears in the 1989 NFL Draft.
Spiers, who punted for Danny Ford’s ACC Championship team in 1986, played 13 seasons in the Majors after an All-American career at Clemson from 1985-’87. Spiers, whose son Will punts for Clemson, earned First-Team All-American honors in 1987.