Hunter Rayburn has drawn praise from his coaches and fellow players alike for his performance this spring and been a pleasant surprise for Clemson to this point in spring practice, as the Tigers look to find a new starter at center following the departure of Cade Stewart.
A multi-sport athlete in high school who didn’t start playing football until his freshman year at West Florida Tech, Rayburn was still a raw offensive lineman when he arrived to Clemson two years ago and admits it took him a while to get acclimated to the college game.
Now, after redshirting in 2019 and gaining some experience over his first two years, Rayburn is finally settling in entering his redshirt sophomore season, feels comfortable on the field and is starting to hit his stride.
“Growing up, I played baseball and basketball. So, I was always playing sports, but definitely not football,” Rayburn said. “When I started playing football in high school, it was just a completely different animal from any other sport I had ever played. So, once I got here, that sport that I was already somewhat unfamiliar with went to a whole new level. So, it definitely took me a good bit of time to really adjust to the game up here.”
Rayburn remembers experiencing what he called a “welcome to college” moment when he was a freshman going through his first ever PAW Drill with the Tigers.
“In high school, you do the Oklahoma drill, and that’s pretty similar,” he said. “But definitely the PAW Drill because the guys you’re lining up against are just as big as you, and they’re knocking you in the teeth, too. So, that first PAW Drill was definitely my ‘welcome to college’ moment.”
The now 6-foot-4, 320-pound Rayburn has come a long way since then and has a real opportunity to take over as Clemson’s starting center in 2021 – an opportunity the Pensacola, Fla., native is not taking lightly.
“It’s really cool,” he said. “It’s an opportunity that I’m not going to take for granted. All throughout high school, I just wanted to make the most of the opportunity there, and then now that I’m here I’m just going to do my best to make the most of my opportunity here. So, it’s really cool.”
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