If there is anyone who knew what Travis Etienne was going through last week, it was former Clemson running back C.J. Spiller.
Like Etienne, Spiller had to make a tough decision following his junior season at Clemson, deciding on whether to go play in the NFL or take a chance on himself and come back to school, get his degree and then turn professional.
Also, like Spiller, Etienne decided to wait another year before beginning real life and decided to come back to Clemson for one more season. The two-time ACC Player of the Year, who has broken nearly all of Spiller’s records at Clemson, made his announcement last Friday.
Spiller admitted on the Qualk and Kelly Show Monday afternoon on WCCP FM in Clemson that Etienne approached him for advice.
“Actually, Travis and I did have a conversation that Thursday before they flew out to New Orleans,” Spiller said. “I went out to practice and I was just watching and then he came up to me and he wanted to talk about his decision. We sat down for about 30 or 45 minutes and talked about the pros and cons. The thing I did not do with Travis is I did not tell him what he needed to do because, at the end of the day, Travis had to make that decision. I did not want to be an influence of him either leaving or staying.
“I could only give him my advice on both staying and leaving, but at the end of the day I told him ‘you have to make this decision. You have to weigh these pros and cons and talk it over with your parents and just be at peace with whatever decision you make.’”
Spiller, of course, came back to Clemson and had one of the greatest individual seasons in Clemson history, setting the single season record for all-purpose yards and touchdowns, while earning ACC Player of the Year honors. Later, in the NFL Draft, his decision to return to school paid off as the No. 9 overall selection by the Buffalo Bills in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Spiller played eight seasons in the NFL with Buffalo and New Orleans before retiring in 2018.
However, the former unanimous All-American admits all the accolades and the high draft pick was not the biggest reward. And that is something he relayed to Etienne when they spoke.
“The biggest thing we talked about was him graduating. That was huge for him. He wants to be an example to his younger brother, who is obviously playing football back in Louisiana,” Spiller said. “So, education was huge. That was the same thing I was going through. I have a younger sister and me graduating from college was big. I wanted to be an example to her.
“It was a great discussion going back and forth. I was able to feel him out and see where he was at, but the other thing I told him ‘is that if you come back, you can’t be one leg out and one leg in. You have to have both legs in, you have to put the blinders on, and you have to go back to work.”
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