Gage Cervenka knows what it takes to put together a championship season, having played on both the 2016 and 2019 national championship teams, Clemson’s right guard is no stranger to success.
As one of the many veteran players on this year’s offensive line, Cervenka is looking to transfer that experience to both the field and young players alike. Following a strong performance last season, the Greenwood, South Carolina native had what most would call his best spring yet, becoming one of the team’s strongest players in the weight room and emerging as a leader on and off the field.
“Just going from last year, I’ve PR’d on bench, gone up on my rep max, and gone up in squats. I take that very seriously because it’s a huge aspect of this game and is just something that I love to do,” the senior said. “Just getting in that weight room and doing everything that I can to better myself is just something that I strive to do.”
Striving to be the best has become second nature to Cervenka. He has learned from experience that the key to success starts with being a good example to those around him.
“I try to push myself because I know that if I push myself then I’m going to kind of help bring those guys behind me up,” he said. “In the weight room just as an offensive line, we have so many guys who have gotten so much stronger, so it’s just something that we strive to do.”
As one of the team’s leaders this season, Cervenka challenges his guys on the offensive line daily to be the best they can be and to have fun doing it. It has helped create a competitive atmosphere that gets the most out of each player.
“We always strive to get as many rushing yards as we can and have a little friendly competition between all of us,” Cervenka said. “We’ll go out there and I’ll mess with the guys and say, ‘Hey, I’m setting the goal. I’m going to get at least five knockdowns this game.’ So, then I’ll get guys like John [Simpson], Tremayne [Anchrum], and Sean [Pollard] and see how many they can get, and we’ll try to one-up each other. There’s just a lot of competition between us.”
The competition is what has prepared Cervenka at right guard. Cervenka started his career at Clemson as a defensive tackle but made the transition to the other side of the ball at center in 2016. He later alternated between playing center and guard in 2018, later making the permanent move to right guard, where he started the last eight games. While not a huge move, Cervenka knew he had to work hard to keep his dream of being an impact player for the Tigers alive and his willingness to go wherever the need is at.
“You have to have strength for both and they are very similar positions. One guy has to snap before he goes and the other one just has a hand in the dirt, ready to go,” he said.
Looking to Saturday’s game against No. 12 Texas A&M, Cervenka played limited snaps against the Aggies in last year but is looking forward to a good challenge not only for him but for his offensive line as well.
Saturday’s game gives the offensive line another chance to show the world that they can improve on the little mistakes, respond to adversity, and ultimately champion this team to another successful season.
“They are well-coached, have some big players, and are physical. It’s going to be a tough match and last year we left a little bit out there, so I just feel like this is going to be a very dominant matchup that we need to come out and dominate in the trenches. This is a game last year where I only got to play one snap, so this game and opponent is kind of new to me and I’m very eager and excited to get out there and play them.”
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