SAN JOSE, Calif. — In just two seasons, Travis Etienne has emerged as one of the most dynamic running backs in college football.
He solidified that argument last week in Clemson’s 30-3 win over Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff semifinal Cotton Bowl game. He played a large role in the Tigers advancing to the national championship game against Alabama in Santa Clara, Calif. at Levi’s Stadium this Monday night.
Etienne rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers’ victory over the Irish. In the second half, the sophomore rushed for a 62-yard touchdown to break open the game.
With that play, he broke former Clemson running back Wayne Gallman’s school record for rushing yards in a season. In 2015 Gallman rushed for 1,527 yards.
Etienne now has 1,572 rushing yards on the season.
“I was just locked in,” Etienne said. “I didn’t even think I was anywhere close to (breaking the record.) Nobody told me about it. I haven’t looked at it or anything. I didn’t know I had broken it.”
And though a sophomore, Etienne has already proven he will go down as one of the Clemson greats. However, he himself still looks up to the ones that paved the way before him.
“I mean, it’s definitely a humbling and tremendous feeling having the guys talk about Wayne, C.J. (Spiller), Andre. (Ellington),” Etienne said. “Just all of those guys coming here and (for me to be) mentioned with those guys is an amazing feeling.”
Now Etienne and his teammates are competing against the Crimson Tide in the national championship game for the third time in the past four years.
“I feel you could say it’s a rivalry now,” he said. “We keep playing each other each and every year and definitely when the stakes are this high why wouldn’t it be a rivalry?”
A native of Jennings, La., Etienne grew up an LSU fan, which has made him root against Alabama all of his life. Now he is living a dream at Clemson and has experienced the fight against the Tide firsthand for two seasons now.
It’s a great and unique experience,” he said. “I definitely rooted for LSU (growing up). I wanted to see Alabama lose. It’s kind of crazy how things work, like come full circle.”