In his last season at Clemson, all Clelin Ferrell wanted was another shot at a national championship. The All-American defensive end knew it was not going to be an easy task.
He was right. Though the Tigers finished the year 15-0 and made it look easy on most Saturdays, it was not as easy as it looked.
Clemson had to overcome the death of former teammate C.J. Fuller, who died suddenly in October following complications from knee surgery. They had to overcome the sudden departure of quarterback Kelly Bryant, who left the team after head coach Dabo Swinney named freshman Trevor Lawrence the starter the week leading up to the Syracuse game.
Then in the College Football Playoff, Ferrell, and his defensive teammates, had to deal with the fact one of his best friends on the defensive line—defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence—was suspended after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug.
“People have no idea,” the ACC’s 2018 Defensive Player of the Year said. “From being counted out, to dealing with the QB situation, to dealing with the loss of a former teammate to dealing with the Dexter situation, people don’t understand the type of focus that it takes to do the type of things that we have done.”
What the Tigers did in 2018 was dominate pretty much every team in their way, including Alabama in the national championship game. Clemson won its last 10 games by an average of 36.1 points and no one came closer than 20 points of beating the Tigers.
In all, Clemson won 13 of its 15 games by 20 or more points.
“To set the goals that we set for ourselves and to accomplish those things, and to beat some of the teams we have had to beat, beat some big-name programs that we beat, I’m just so overwhelmed by just seeing the leadership of this team,” Ferrell said. “That is what it was, the leadership. Obviously, the coaches pointed us in the right direction, but the players, we are the ones that walked through that door and it meant the world to see that all come together.”
It meant the world for Ferrell, who ended his Clemson career by winning the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s best defensive end, while also being picked as a consensus All-American. The following April, Ferrell was taken No. 4 in by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
But none of that is why he decided to return to Clemson for one final year. He came back to win another championship and to leave a legacy at Clemson that will never be forgotten.
“I’m going to look back at it not so much as an individual thing because that does not matter,” he said. “I just enjoyed the journey with my teammates and the family that we have here at Clemson. To see us go out and do everything that we set out to do and then capitalize on it on the field and finish by beating a great team, that meant the world to me.
“And it is not just beating them but dominating in the moment. That meant the world to me.”
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