When approached by Dabo Swinney about the possibility of coaching a different position so that C.J. Spiller could join Clemson’s staff on a full-time basis, Tony Elliott didn’t hesitate and was happy to do it.
A Clemson guy through and through, Elliott knows how much Spiller means to the football program, and so he was fully on board when Swinney asked him to transition from running backs coach to tight ends coach, in addition to his role as offensive coordinator, in order to open up a spot for Spiller as the new running backs coach.
“It’s a real honor to be asked to move positions so C.J. Spiller could come in,” Elliott said this week. “Because I’m a guy that knows all about the program, and if there wasn’t C.J. Spiller, then I wouldn’t be in this position that I’m in today. So, first and foremost, it was an honor that Coach (Swinney) would ask me to move positions so that C.J. could come in.”
Elliott, who played at Clemson from 2000-03 and has been on Swinney’s staff since 2011, also saw the transition to another role as a chance to do for Spiller what was done for him when he was hired to be Furman’s wide receivers coach back in 2008.
“It’s also an opportunity for me to pay back because a similar situation happened to me at Furman,” Elliott said. “When I was hired at Furman, the receivers coach transitioned to running backs so that I could have an opportunity to come on staff. So, it’s pretty cool to see how the Lord brought that back on me.”
Spiller, who served as an unpaid coaching intern for the Tigers during the 2020 season, was officially hired as Clemson’s new running backs coach on Feb. 5.
Elliott is excited about the different perspective Spiller will bring to the running backs room as the person who still holds the ACC single-season and career records for all-purpose yards, and who had an eight-year NFL career from 2010-17 after being the ninth overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
“He can talk about some things that I may not have personally experienced – just the true preparation process as a running back,” Elliott said. “I can talk specifically about wideout because that’s what I played. I did the best I could to try and teach myself that, but he has firsthand knowledge. He can talk more of the eye discipline. I know what to teach, but I’ve never done it, and it’s a little bit different when you’ve actually done some of those things. You just have a different perspective.”
Elliott is happy for Spiller, who has been one of Clemson’s best ambassadors and paid his dues to be in the position he is in today.
“He’s a guy that he’s done everything right,” Elliott said. “He’s sacrificed. He came back to school and then he was rewarded. So, he understands the importance of being prepared for the next level. He can have those conversations with those guys, which is awesome. Then he has the experience of being on the IPTAY Board. So, he’s experienced life after football, specifically from that position.
“So, he just brings a perspective that’s a little bit different than mine. Whereas I had to do everything I could and I did, and I felt like I did a really good job for 10 years coaching those guys, trying to fill the position. But he just has a natural feel, and the guys have gravitated toward him because of that.”
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