Clemson football is Passionate About Winning.
While Clemson has won a program-best 20 straight games and two national championships in the last three years, its focus on winning off the football field sets it apart from the rest in college football. PAW Journey started in full force before the 2016 season under the direction of former Tiger All-American and 1981 national champion Jeff Davis.
Davis joined the Clemson staff in an off-the-field capacity in Dabo Swinney’s first season as the head coach back in 2008. Since then PAW Journey has become a major part of the program to set players up for a future beyond football.
“We want to thank Jeff Davis, Savannah (Bailey), Rashard (Hall), Travis (Blanks) and Reggie (Pleasant) because they do an amazing job serving our players,” Swinney said. “We want them to take advantage of this short moment of life they have here and if they play football after that’s great but if not, we want them to start transitioning now before football ends.”
This week is PAW Journey week in the Clemson football office and Swinney provided detailed stats about the impact of the program. They completed 85 initiatives this past year including 25 micro-internships in two countries and eight states, service opportunities abroad in Thailand, and the list goes on.
“My original introduction to football was all about developing a young man,” said Davis, who was an All-American linebacker on Clemson’s 1981 National Championship team before playing five years in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “We are men first and it is not just something that we say.”
The program chooses 25 PAW Journey ambassadors with a coach recommendation, football employee recommendation and an explanation of their reasons for joining. One ambassador is running back Darien Rencher.
The redshirt junior participated in a micro-internship with safety K’Von Wallace this summer in New York City at the National Football League offices. The experience proved formative for the Anderson native.
“We got to see the ins and outs from everything to football operations or making calls for games, which we got all of them wrong,” Rencher said. “It was an awesome connection to make because not many guys make it into an NFL office.”
Rencher even said he has a job offer in play for after graduation thanks in part to his participation in PAW Journey. In fact, Clemson boasts 100-percent job placement for players in the 2017-’18 class.
The program has launched partnerships with Adobe, the NFL, Cisco, Madison Square Garden, Endeavor and other reputable business with internships and shadowing opportunities for players.
“Those opportunities and that exposure is tremendous because it is one thing to say you take a holistic approach. It is another thing to show them what a holistic approach looks like,” Davis said. “Each one of our young men can tell you the journey to the NFL, but how many can tell you about the journey to Adobe, Cisco, to American Express and so forth and so on.”
The PAW Journey experience connected Tigers with a service project ahead of the 2019 season in Bankok, Thailand. Last May players put together over 900 hours at the Mercy Center School for Underprivileged Children.
As a team they have recorded more than 1,300 community service projects. This shows the heart behind PAW Journey and Rencher said, “everybody does it to better themselves as a person and as a man.”
Thanks to Swinney, Davis and the PAW Journey staff, Clemson football players are granted an opportunity to go farther in life beyond the football field.
“Any time we give our young men that practical experience and the reality of them having the opportunity to do that when they exit Clemson, it becomes real. It becomes alive,” Davis said. “So, I can’t think of anything better than saying, when you come to Clemson, education means options.
“Yes, I can go to the NFL, but also we are going to show you the journey to the market place so you can continue to lead and compete at a high level.”
—Photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications
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