One guy leaves Clemson as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time leading rusher, touchdown leader and scoring leader. The other leaves the program as its all-time winningest quarterback, while also setting the school’s passing record for average yards per game in a season, as well as several other marks.
Together, they made up the greatest backfield, not just in Clemson history, but in the history of the ACC. This is the legacy running back Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence leave behind. No one is sure if we will ever see a duo like this again in the Clemson backfield.
“Unbelievable, man. It was a very painful moment in there hugging both of them and just telling them how much I love them, how much I appreciate them,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said after last week’s loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff. “And both of those guys just laid it on the line tonight. I mean, they absolutely laid it on the line, not just tonight but their whole careers.”
With his three-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against the Buckeyes, Etienne (468) broke Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins’ ACC record for career points (466 from 2009-12). His 468 points tied Travis Prentice (468 from 1996-99) for the seventh-most career points in FBS history.
The touchdown was the 70th rushing touchdown of his career, joining Keenan Reynolds (88), Montee Ball (77), Travis Prentice (73), Ricky Williams (72) and Kenneth Dixon (72) as the only FBS players ever to rush for 70 career touchdowns in NCAA history.
Etienne concluded his senior season having scored a touchdown of any kind in 46 of his 55 career games, adding to his FBS record for most career games scoring a touchdown.
With two receptions on Clemson’s first drive, Etienne (48) broke the Clemson single season running back receptions record held by Travis Zachery (45 in 2001). Earlier this year he broke C.J. Spiller’s single season mark for yards with 588.
Etienne finished his career with 4,952 rushing yards, the most in the history of the ACC.
Lawrence, who officially declared for the NFL Draft this past Wednesday, was 34-2 (.944) for his career as a starter, the third-best winning percentage by a starting quarterback with at least 30 career starts since Division I split in 1978, trailing only Miami’s Ken Dorsey (.950) and USC’s Matt Leinart (.949), according to ESPN Stats & Info. His 34 wins are also the most by a Clemson quarterback in school history.
Projected by many to be the first overall pick in the year’s NFL Draft, Lawrence led Clemson to a sixth straight ACC Championship this season, while throwing for 3,153 yards and 24 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He completed 69.2 percent of his 334 passes. He averaged a Clemson record 315.3 yards per game through the air in 2020.
“Trevor Lawrence is a generational guy. He’s going to be a great player for a long, long time,” Swinney said. “And so is Travis Etienne. And just to know that the good Lord blessed me to be a part of their journey, I’m just thankful for that.
“But both of them are leaving here. Trevor is the winningest quarterback in school history. Played for two national championships. Won one of them. Left here three‑time league champion. Travis Etienne, he’s the all-time ACC leading rusher and got all kinds of records at Clemson. These are two unbelievable players that will be in the College Football Hall of Fame at some point, one of these days down the road. So, I’m thankful that the good Lord blessed me to be a part of their journey.”
Etienne helped guide Clemson to four ACC Championships and one national championship during his career. The Tigers made the playoff in all four of his seasons, while advancing the national championship game two times.
The Jennings, La., native was named the ACC’s Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019, while he was a three-time first-team All-American. He and former Clemson quarterback Steve Fuller (1977 and 1978) are the only two Tigers to win the ACC’s most coveted prize in back-to-back years.
He was also the MVP of the 2018 ACC Championship Game.
Lawrence was named the ACC Player of the Year in 2020, joining Fuller, Tajh Boyd (2012) and Deshaun Watson (2015) as he only Clemson quarterbacks to win the award. Lawrence was the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy race in 2020 as well, joining Watson (2016) as the only players in Clemson history to finish second for the prestigious award.
In 2018, Lawrence became the first freshman quarterback since 1985 to guide his team to a national championship. He also helped Clemson to three appearances in the CFP and played for another national championship.
He is the first Clemson quarterback since Rodney Williams (1986-’88) to guide the Tigers to three straight ACC Championships. He was named the MVP of the 2020 ACC Championship Game.
“We’re all sad that it ended the way it ended (in the Sugar Bowl). And we wanted to end it in Miami with a victory and ride off into the sunset, but that wasn’t to be,” Swinney said. “I love those guys, and I’m so thankful for all those seniors. But Travis and Trevor, man, just incredible legacies. And they set the standard, I mean, not just their performance but how they worked, their commitment, their toughness.
“They didn’t ever expect anything more from their teammates than they were willing to give. And just their appreciation of the opportunity. Both of them are graduates and, like I said, have very bright futures ahead. And I look forward to following their journey.”