Bockhorst comes to terms with career end, but will still be there for teammates

Bockhorst comes to terms with career end, but will still be there for teammates

Football

Bockhorst comes to terms with career end, but will still be there for teammates

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Matt Bockhorst knew it.

As he lay on the ground, withering in pain, Clemson’s veteran offensive lineman knew he likely played his last snap of college football.

It’s hard to get a sense of what was going through Bockhorst’s head during the second half of last Saturday’s 27-17 loss to No. 17 Pitt at Heinz Field. But, just by looking at him, you couldn’t help but sense the feeling of despair as he watched on, blankly staring at the field in which his football career prematurely ended.

As he peeled back the curtain, Bockhorst did so with grace and he did so with emotion. It was a perfect representation of his career as a Clemson Tiger, one that was filled with fiery passion and raw emotion. That was on display during Tuesday’s media availability as Bockhorst did his best to give reporters a sense of what was going through his mind when he injured his knee yet again. 

“It hurt. It hurt bad. Physically and just emotionally, it hurt,” Bockhorst said Tuesday. I kind of knew something was wrong and unfortunately, I have a good deal of experience with knee issues. Before I went into the locker room, I kind of knew that was my last snap and that is very hard to accept.”

It seemed like Bockhorst was coming to terms that his playing career was in fact over as he spoke with the media for the final time. 

He recounted feeling helpless as if he let his team down. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Anyone who knows Bockhorst knows just how much he gave each and every day to this program, just ask his head coach. The outpouring of support from fans and teammates alike has helped lift his spirits.

“I’ve always wanted to give to my teammates what I expected them to give me and that’s everything,” he said. “And to sit there to watch and see them struggling and just the missed opportunities and could’ve, should’ve, would’ve is very hard to watch. It’s part of the game and it’s something I have to come to terms with about my career coming to an end and I’m not gonna quit on this team and I know the guys that get to play on the field aren’t gonna quit either. It’s a tough time for all of us.”

It’s hard to stay positive knowing that this is the end of the road, but Bockhorst did his best to give some perspective on what his role will be going forward.

“I mean it’s tough and moving around on crutches is not ideal. It’s hard,” Bockhorst said. “Bottom line is, I still have to be here for the guys and I will still be a leader as much as I can. Being on crutches isn’t ideal, well, a lot of this situation isn’t ideal, but that’s where we are. 

“Just being at practice, being at meetings when I can be, and just trying to encourage and get guys to play the way that we’re capable of playing is what I’m gonna try to do. We have it. It’s there. It’s so close, but it has just not shown up yet and it’s incredibly frustrating for us. I know it’s incredibly frustrating for the fans. We’re doing what we can to fix it because this is not what we’re used to. When you look at the talent of our roster, we know that we’re capable of so much more and so, anything that I can do to assist in the transition and maturation of this team, that’s what I’m gonna do.”

Bockhorst insisted that he promised he wouldn’t cry as he held back tears.

He was asked what it was like to see his parents for the first time following the injury. Bockhorst took a deep breath. He shook his head as he searched for the words to answer the question. 

“Just devastating,” he said as he let some tears flow.

“You just look your mother in the eyes and know that she hurts for you,” Bockhorst added. “Like I said, I can’t even explain the sacrifices that my parents have made for me. Even just the amount of times that I get to see my parents, they live seven hours away and I see them almost every weekend, in-season, and the offseason. My parents have become a part of the Clemson family and my little brother, he’s a freshman [at Clemson]. Clemson Football means something to them. They’re so invested in this and my dad knows what it’s like to put on the pads and give it your all. And he knows that the game has meant so much to me. I’m very thankful that I had that opportunity to share that moment with them.”

It’s very hard for Bockhorst to experience this, but he doesn’t have to go through it alone. Having his family by his side is what ultimately matters in the end.

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