Dabo Swinney thinks running back Travis Etienne decided to return to Clemson for his senior season because the opportunities at Clemson were a bigger pull than what his opportunity in the NFL is right now.
Etienne announced his decision to return to Clemson on Friday, the last day draft eligible underclassmen could declare themselves eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft.
“I was really pumped when he called, and I could hear the excitement in his voice to tell me he was coming back,” Swinney said Friday via Clemson Football’s Official Twitter Page.
Etienne isn’t the only draft eligible underclassmen who decided to return for his senior year at Clemson. Defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney decided to return for his final season on Thursday, while wide receiver Amari Rodgers and linebacker James Skalski announced it publicly prior to the Fiesta Bowl last month.
However, a few others decided to declare themselves eligible for the NFL Draft, which will be held in April. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons announced prior to the start of the season that the 2019 year was going to be his last at Clemson and then on Thursday wide receiver Tee Higgins announced his plans to forgo his senior season.
Backup quarterback Chase Brice announced he was transferring to another school on Thursday. Friday night, cornerback A.J. Terrell announced on Twitter he will forgo his senior season and place his name into the NFL Draft.
Outside of Simmons and Higgins, who both are projected to be high-to-mid first-round selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, the others had difficult decisions to make. The Clemson Insider learned on Thursday Etienne was struggling with his decision and was going back-and-forth, but in the end, he wanted to do what he felt was best for him.
“He just said he wants to be an example to his family, and he wants to have his senior year,” Swinney said. “He wants to basically leave no doubt with his legacy and what he wants to achieve at the next level. It is pretty good news, but you know that has kind of become the norm around here, to be honest with you.”
Etienne, who won the ACC Player of the Year Award in 2018 and 2019, joins a long list of Clemson players, who many thought were headed to the NFL early, that decided to return to school for one more season.
“I think it speaks to the example that has been set by a lot of other guys before him. Whether it was all the way back to C.J. Spiller, to Mike Williams coming back, to Isaiah Simmons, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant … the value of education is a huge thing,” Swinney said. “I just think that was a bigger pull than what his opportunity at the next level is right now.
“I think, it also speaks to his love of Clemson. His love of the family that is here.”
Etienne, who already owns just about every Clemson rushing record in the book, now has opportunity to re-write the record books in the ACC, as well. The 5-10, 210-pound running back is just 565 yards shy of breaking the ACC’s all-time rushing record and 795 yards short of becoming the all-time leader in yards from scrimmage.
He already holds the ACC records for total touchdowns in a single season and a career, as well as rushing touchdowns in a career.
“We are just super pumped,” Swinney said. “We are excited to have him be back and graduate in December and leave here as one of the greatest backs probably in college football history by the end of this year. So, let’s go! 2020, let’s go! New decade! It is pretty cool to kickoff this new decade with Travis Etienne in the backfield.”
Etienne’s Clemson & ACC records
- 4,038 rushing yards, Clemson record
- 62 total touchdowns, Clemson & ACC record
- 56 rushing touchdowns, Clemson & ACC Record
- 1,658 rushing yards (2018), Clemson single season record
- 24 rushing touchdowns (2018), Clemson single season record
- 26 total touchdowns (2018), Clemson and ties ACC single-season record
- 8.1 yards per carry (2018), highest per carry average in ACC history
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