Handling the recruiting responsibilities that come with his new job as Clemson’s running backs coach will be a unique experience for C.J. Spiller, different than what he experienced more than a decade ago when he was the one in high school being recruited by college coaches.
However, because he went through the recruiting process as a prospect, Spiller has a good understanding of it, and – although he is on the opposite end of it now as a coach – he doesn’t expect recruiting to be a hard thing for him to do.
“Going into somebody’s home is not going to be a difficult task,” Spiller said. “Obviously, it will be different, being on the other side of it. But it’s about just going in there and being myself, being who I am, and just building that relationship with someone.”
Spiller understands the importance of being genuine when interacting with recruits and their families. If he’s not, he knows recruits will pick up on that – he certainly did when he was a recruit, and that is the reason he decided to sign with Clemson back in 2006.
The former five-star running back could tell that unlike a lot of other coaches courting him, Dabo Swinney was down to earth and a straight shooter, with Spiller’s best interest in mind beyond just football.
“I can’t go in there and fake it because these kids now, this generation, they’ll sense that,” Spiller said. “I sensed it when I got recruited. I knew what coaches were being real with me and what coaches wanted me just to come there, and that’s why I chose to come to Clemson because I felt like Coach Swinney was the only one that was really truly being real with me, honestly. He didn’t just talk about football with me all the time. It was about life. He knew I was having a daughter coming out of high school. He wanted to know, ‘How are you going to be a father? What are the things that you’re going to do?’ With him being a father, he was able to help me with that.
“So, that’s the thing about going to a recruit – it’s all about just going in there and being yourself, being who you are and not giving this false narrative about a program. We have the stuff to back up what we’re saying.”
Being a coach at Clemson with everything the school has to offer both academically and athletically, Spiller knows he won’t have to come up with an elaborate recruiting pitch to try to sell prospects on Clemson – it will truly sell itself.
“The thing about here at Clemson is that we don’t have to go into a kid’s home and give them this false narrative,” he said. “We have great facilities, we have great people here, academics – the number one thing in this program is graduation. So, if you come to Clemson, that’s going to be top priority is to graduate. For me, I can go into a home and attest to that because I’m a graduate.”
While Spiller has a good feel for the recruiting process and knows what it takes to get the job done, he still expects there to be a learning curve, now that he is on the other side of things, with making sure he is up to speed on all the NCAA rules and regulations he must follow.
That is where Spiller can lean on the more seasoned members of Clemson’s staff to help him out, and he isn’t afraid to ask questions when he needs guidance or direction about how to go about his business on the recruiting trail.
“There’s certain stuff that I have to make sure that I’m doing it the proper way to make sure that you’re not doing anything that’s going to bring any negativity to a program,” he said. “So, that just goes to making sure I’m asking the right questions with guys that have been in this position before. We’ve got a lot of veteran coaches on our team that you can go and ask for help. So, I’m always going to go and ask questions, how they did certain things, because I only know it just from a recruit standpoint. Now, I’m on the other side. So, I’m always asking questions with how they handled certain situations, how do they conduct themselves going into schools.”
At the end of the day, though, recruiting comes down to building relationships. And Spiller believes if he can do that successfully, then everything else will fall into place.
“When it comes to recruiting, me being able to go through it obviously as a player in high school, you kind of know what to expect,” he said. “Obviously, it’s changed since I’ve been in high school. But it’s still, to me, recruiting’s about relationships, can you go build a relationship with an individual. I’m a huge individual that values relationships to the utmost. So, it’s all about building that relationship with a young man and his family – letting them get to know you, you getting to know them – and then just over time, that stuff, it will take care of itself.”
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