With the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in the books, Clemson running back Travis Etienne must focus on making his NFL decision ahead of next Monday’s deadline to declare for the draft.
As painful as Clemson’s 42-25 loss to LSU on Monday night was for Etienne, the junior says the game’s outcome does not affect his decision of whether to stick around for one more season with the Tigers or forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the next phase of his football career.
Etienne intends to make an informed choice after having conversations with his family as well as head coach Dabo Swinney and running backs coach Tony Elliott.
“Tonight doesn’t alter that,” he said after the game. “Win or lose, my decision’s going to be based off of what I believe in and what I hold firm and stand in as a person. So, I just have to go home, just sit with my family, talk with Coach Swinney, Coach Elliott and just look at the pros and cons and just see what’s the best decision for me going forward.”
If the national title game was indeed Etienne’s last game as a Tiger, he went out with a solid performance, rushing for 78 yards including a 3-yard touchdown on 15 carries while catching five passes for an additional 36 yards.
On a carry early in the first quarter, Etienne (4,038) broke Raymond Priester’s Clemson record for career rushing yards (3,966). During the contest, he also became the first 4,000-yard career rusher in the school’s history.
Although he has had an extraordinary career as a Tiger, Etienne does not plan to think about his college accomplishments until he settles down after his time in the NFL is over.
“Probably when I’m about 50,” he said. “Probably when I retire from the league, got me a ranch going, living life, I’ll probably look back and reflect on the things I did in college. So yeah, down the road I’ll look back and just look at all the things that I’ve done throughout my life.
“But right now, it’s kind of hard because you’re just too busy worrying about doing the things instead of focusing on just being great in the process and not really worrying about the accolades that may come with it. So, later down the road when I look back, yeah, I’ll look back and be like, that was kind of good.”
Etienne and the Tigers built a 17-7 lead over LSU (15-0) less than five minutes into the second quarter, only to see LSU outscore them 35-8 the rest of the way.
Etienne admitted Clemson (14-1) took its foot off the gas and got somewhat complacent after jumping out in front.
“They just kept fighting,” he said. “They just wanted it more. We just got relaxed, I guess, and they just came out and just kept fighting.”
According to Etienne, Swinney had a positive postgame message for his team, making sure they understood that the loss to LSU doesn’t define who they are.
“He just told us how much he loved us and just keep our heads up,” Etienne said. “I mean, you lose some, you win some, but that doesn’t determine who you are at the end of the day. And just go back to the drawing board and learn from it and get better from it.”
Etienne, a native of Jennings, Louisiana, was approached by members of LSU’s team after the game and reciprocated the respect they showed him after a well-deserved win.
“They came towards me,” he said. “They came and congratulated me, and I just felt like, I wanted to come up to them and just tell them thank you, bro, enjoy this win, great game, just tip my hat off to them. They came out, they beat us, and I tipped my hat off to them. A couple guys came up to me, and just being Clemson, winning with class and losing with class, just tipped my hats off to them and just did the right thing.”
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