When the Pittsburgh Steelers came up with the No. 24 pick in the first round of Thursday’s 2021 NFL Draft, Urban Meyer said it felt like it was fourth-and-one.
Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars were paying close attention because they knew the Steelers were going to likely take a running back. The Jaguars were hoping Travis Etienne would still be on the board for them to select at No. 25.
It all came down to whether the Steelers were going to take Alabama’s Najee Harris or Clemson’s talented running back. The Steelers took Harris.
“They took a great player, but the guy we kind had penciled in, we had him,” Meyer said.
The Jaguars, who had already selected Etienne’s Clemson teammate in quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick, were not the only ones sweating out the Steelers pick.
“Not going to lie,” Etienne said, “I was nervous when that twenty-fourth pick came up. I wanted to come to Jacksonville. I was secretly rooting for the Jaguars.”
Rumors swirled over the last week that the Jaguars could take the ACC’s all-time rushing leader. Meyer confirmed they had several Zoom meetings with Etienne during the draft process and they gave the idea of reuniting the Clemson backfield some serious thought.
“They are winners. I have a great relationship with their coach (Dabo Swinney),” Meyer said. “So, I know about as much as you possibly can about Travis and Trevor, and the fact they are winners. They are elite competitors and I still think there is not a lot of wear-and-tear left on them.
“Obviously, Trevor only played the three years, but then Travis has played a lot of football, but he still has a lot left. He is a fast guy. Great speed.”
Lawrence became the first No. 1 overall pick in Clemson Football history, and the selections made Lawrence and Etienne the first quarterback/running back duo selected from the same school by the same team in the first round of the Common Draft era (since 1967).
“We used up all the Zoom calls with those guys,” Meyer said. “The Zoom bill is awfully high around here.”
At Clemson, Lawrence and Etienne teamed up to help the Tigers win the 2018 National Championship. They never lost a regular season game together (28-0), while they both earned each of the last three ACC Player of the Year honors. Lawrence was the 2020 Player of the Year, while Etienne won the honor in 2018 and 2019.
They also helped the Tigers win three ACC Championships, while setting Clemson, ACC and NCAA records along the way.
“I did have it in the back of my mind that I might have a chance to reunite with Trev,” Etienne said. “For it to come full circle, I’m just happy, excited and blessed. Being his teammate for three years, we’ve really built that camaraderie. I don’t have to work on getting to know somebody else.
“I know Trev inside and out. It will be a great feeling. We’re going out there with the same common goal, so there will be great things to happen on that field.”
Etienne said Lawrence texted him shortly after the selection late Thursday.
“He was like, ‘Let’s go, man,’” Etienne said. “We’re ready to get together and keep improving what we’ve done so far. We’re just both excited to get a chance to play with each other. It’s a great blessing and we’re ready to get to work, honestly. I just can’t wait to get down there, honestly.”
–Jacksonville Jaguars Public Relations contributed to this story
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