During his illustrious four-year career at Clemson, C.J. Spiller accomplished a lot of things.
He was a unanimous All-American selection in 2009. He set the NCAA career record for touchdowns on kickoff and overall returns. He was second all-time in the NCAA in all-purpose yards and holds the ACC record.
Before his career was done at Clemson, Spiller set 51 game, season and career records at Clemson. He is arguably the greatest all-around player in Clemson history.
However, despite all of that success, the 2009 ACC Player of the Year has just one thing that stands out to him when looking back at his Clemson career.
“I was not invited to New York,” Spiller said to The Clemson Insider.
Spiller is talking about the Heisman Trophy Presentation which is held at the Downtown Athletic Club in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York. Clemson’s All-American finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting that year, tying him at the time with Steve Fuller for the highest finish by a Clemson player in the Heisman Trophy race.
Unfortunately, Spiller just missed the cut as a finalist as five other players—Mark Ingram (Alabama), Toby Gerhart (Stanford), Colt McCoy (Texas), Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska) and Tim Tebow (Florida)—were all invited.
Clemson started Spiller’s Heisman Trophy campaign in July of 2009, when it released an 8-foot poster of him to the media at the ACC Football Kickoff. It was similar to the one it did for William Perry’s All-American campaign in 1984.
“When I say I’m disappointed, it’s not from a personal standpoint, it’s for my teammates,” Spiller said. “Those guys, once we did all that preseason stuff that we did, honestly, I was so receptive to my teammates after that. They really pushed. They really wanted to help me get the opportunity to get to New York.”
There is an argument Spiller should have been invited to New York. He had one of the greatest individual seasons in the history of college football in 2009.
He rushed for 1,212 yards and ran for 12 touchdowns. He also caught 36 passes that year for 503 yards and added four more touchdowns. He had 8 punt returns for 210 yards and one touchdown and had 23 kickoff returns for 755 yards and scored 4 touchdowns.
Also, which few people knew about at the time, he did it all while suffering from turf toe the entire season, an injury he suffered in the first game of the season.
“To me, it felt like I let those guys down because we did not get the invitation to go up there and represent our football team and have a chance to represent our university,” Spiller said.
It was especially disappointing for Spiller and his teammates after he rushed for a career-high 233 yards and scored 4 touchdowns in the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers lost the game on a last-second touchdown by Georgia Tech, 39-34, but Spiller was still voted as the game’s MVP. It is still the only time in all of college football a player from the losing team has been named the MVP since conference championship games began in 1992.
“I just felt disappointed for my guys because I knew how personal they made it and put it upon themselves to give me the opportunity to go up there,” Spiller said. “We never talked about me going and winning the Heisman. Once we did that in the preseason that was it. It was about the next game every week. But I knew deep down inside those guys wanted me to have the opportunity to go up there and represent our team.”