Monday Morning Quarterback
While all eyes were focused on D.J. Uiagalelei this past Saturday, quietly one of the best comeback stories in college football took place at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.
And no, I am not talking about Justyn Ross this time. Though, as I have said before, his return from spinal surgery is one of the more amazing stories of the 2021 season.
This time, I am talking about someone else who has had difficult 2021 thus far, both on and off the field.
Five months after completely tearing his Achilles tendon, Taisun Phommachanh was throwing passes and running around in the sixth-ranked Tigers’ 49-3 victory over S.C. State. It was quite the sight considering on April 3 he was being helped off the field following a pass to tight end Davis Allen in the Spring Game.
But if you did not know, you could not tell Phommachanh was returning from such a serious injury so fast.
“I was proud of him,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said afterwards.
An Achilles tear is one of the more difficult injuries to return from for an athlete. On average, a completely torn Achilles takes anywhere from eight to 12 months to recover from. Phommachanh’s return is almost unheard of.
But he was cleared to play this season on Aug. 23, and this past Saturday he entered the game with 7:23 to play in the third quarter.
And Phommachanh was ready for his opportunity.
With the ball rested at the Clemson 37, the redshirt sophomore led the Tigers on a 10-play, 63-yard scoring drive that took 3:31 off the clock. Phommachanh was brilliant, completing 6-of-7 passes for 63 yards on the drive, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to running back Lyn-J Dixon.
He also completed a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Beaux Collins and ran three yards for a first down on a third-and-one play.
“He was excellent. He was sharp. He was decisive,” Swinney said.
He was having fun.
Phommachanh finished the afternoon in Death Valley 7-of-10 for 75 yards. There were just two bad throws. He had one overthrow, which S.C. State’s Decobie Durant made a diving catch to record an interception.
The other was a pass to reserve wide receiver Will Brown that he short hopped on a third-down.
“The decision making and all that stuff, his confidence, I am super excited,” Swinney said.
Coming back from a torn Achilles was not the only thing Phommachanh has had to overcome. On December 21, 2020, his family’s home was destroyed by fire. He spent the first part of the year worried about his them.
Prior to the fire, his grandmother past the day before.
Phommachanh has since reported his family is doing fine and they have since moved into a new home.
But on Saturday, none of the 78,609 fans at Memorial Stadium could tell any of those things happened to the Bridgeport, Connecticut native.
“I am proud of Phommachanh, man. It is exciting,” Swinney said. “He and Ross, those are two amazing stories. Two amazing stories from those two guys.”
Football season has finally arrived. Time to represent your Tigers and show your stripes!