Growing up as a teenager in Jennings, Louisiana, Travis Etienne and his friends traveled the 90 minutes or so it took to get to Baton Rouge as often as they could.
“Early on, growing up, I was a Tennessee fan,” he said. “But as I got older and started to get recruited, I kind of liked LSU. We were going there every weekend. It was the closest game. Me and my two buddies just always went.”
The Clemson running back describes attending a game at Tiger Field as a unique experience.
“It is really crazy loud,” he said. “[LSU fans] are very passionate. It is something I feel like everyone should experience for themselves.”
Clemson fans will not experience LSU’s version of Death Valley until the two teams meet in Baton Rouge later this decade, but they will get a little taste next Monday when Clemson plays LSU in the College Football Playoff National Championship at the Superdome in New Orleans. LSU is expected to fill up 75-percent of the 74,000-seat stadium with its fans.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Etienne. Jennings is a two-and-a-half-hour drive to New Orleans, where he will be playing for the second time in his career.
“It is also a unique opportunity, being a kid from Louisiana, getting to play in the Superdome against the home-state team for a national championship,” he said. “You could not have scripted this up any better. Now, we just have to go out there and take care of business.”
Of course, the last time Clemson played in the Superdome, it did not work out too well for Etienne and the Tigers. Clemson was beat 24-6 by eventual national champion Alabama in the semifinals of the 2018 CFP at the Sugar Bowl.
A freshman at the time, Etienne was held to just 22 yards on four carries and was never a factor in the game.
“It is a great opportunity for me to go out there and redeem myself from my freshman year,” he said. “I am getting another opportunity to play in the dome. The last time I did not have a great game and we were not able to get the W, so it is kind of great to get the opportunity to go out there and revenge that loss.”
Since then, Etienne has matured both physical and mentally while becoming one of the greatest running back in ACC history. He already owns the ACC record for career rushing touchdowns (55) and total touchdowns (61) and needs just seven yards to become Clemson’s all-time career rushing leader. The two-time ACC Player of the Year currently has 3,960.
“When I made the decision to come here instead of LSU, I made this decision for myself. This is what was best for me,” Etienne said. “I looked at it as a 40-year decision, not a four-year decision. Since I have been here, it has been really great. It has really been a great process and journey, and I have really grown as a player, but as a man, too. So, it was the best decision I could have made, and I am thankful for that.”
Clemson is going back to the national championship game after once again winning the Fiesta Bowl over Ohio State. Get your official national championship and Fiesta Bowl champs gear right here!