Every year, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will ask his players and coaches to have a word for the season. This word is used as a reminder of what each player is trying to accomplish at every workout, every practice, every snap and every game.
For right guard Gage Cervenka, his word is “Finish.”
“Finishing blocks, finishing my career, make sure that I finish in everything that I do,” he explained. “That is what I am relying on this season.”
Cervenka, like the rest of the Tigers, want to finish the 2019 season where they ended 2018, on top of the college football mountain. But right now, he will tell you they are nowhere near the top. First, they have to finish camp, which he admits has not been an easy one.
“This heat,” he said, “but it has actually been a very good camp. Nothing has been too crazy. It is always just learning the playbook, just knowledge and trying to show the reigns and how things work to the younger guys. Nothing has been too hard. We are just coming out here and grinding every day through the heat.”
No one grinds more than Cervenka. After redshirting in 2015, the Greenwood, South Carolina native moved from defensive tackle to the offensive line to help provide some depth. After playing as a reserve as a freshman and sophomore, he earned a starting spot at right guard at Florida State and he never relinquished it, as he started each of the last eight games.
“I think he is just a testament to this program,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “We are going to do what we feel is best for you and your future and give you an opportunity. If you put in the work, you will be rewarded. Good things will happen.
“I’m just extremely excited for him. Now he is in the position where he is a leader of our team. He is one of the seniors. He is really embracing that role and I think he also helps us from a toughness standpoint because he has been on (the defensive) side of the ball. He understands what it takes and the mindset you have to have to be an offensive lineman.”
And, thanks to his defensive tackle background, Cervenka brings a little nastiness to the offensive line.
“A little bit,” Elliott said smiling.
Cervenka says his nastiness, if you will, allows him to do what he wants to do more than anything … finish.
“I guess just having that nasty, finishing blocks. Other guys are good on the point of attack, but they might not know where the play goes, and stuff like that so they don’t properly understand where the running back may hit the hole,” he said. “If they would stay on the hole and finish the block then whoever has the ball could break in and take it to the house for a touchdown.”