C.J. Spiller has officially reached college football’s peak.
Before he was Clemson’s running backs coach, Spiller excelled at the position during his playing days at the Tigers. Throw in his special teams wizardry, and Spiller was one of the best the sport has ever seen with the ball in his hands.
With his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, he’s officially recognized as such. Spiller will be enshrined with the rest of the 2020 and 2021 classes during the National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner late Tuesday in Las Vegas.
Spiller is one of 13 former players and coaches who are part of the 2021 class. Other notable class members include Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois quarterback), Carson Palmer (Southern Cal Heisman-winning quarterback), Dan Morgan (Miami linebacker), Darren Sproles (Kansas State running back) and Bob Stoops (former Oklahoma coach).
“I think this is at the pinnacle of everything,” Spiller said before the event. “I think everything I set out to do at a young age when I started playing the game of football, this would be right at the top.”
Spiller, who got the nod in just his second year of eligibility, is the eighth inductee in the history of Clemson’s program and the fourth player to earn the distinction. A former blue-chip recruit, he began his collegiate career in 2006 after being recruited out of Lake Butler, Florida, by his position coach turned boss, Dabo Swinney.
The rest is history.
A 5-foot-11, 200-pounder with track speed to boot, Spiller became one of college football’s most dynamic players during his four seasons with the Tigers. He piled up 7,588 career all-purpose yards – still the third-most in FBS history – and returned seven kickoffs for touchdowns, an NCAA record.
His senior season in 2009 was his best. Spiller rushed for 1,212 yards, had 503 yards receiving and returned five kicks (four kickoffs, one punt) for scores, accounting for more than 2,600 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns that season. The ACC Player of the Year and a unanimous first-team All-American, he also finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Spiller was then taken ninth overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2010 NFL Draft. He played for five teams over eight NFL seasons before eventually returning to coach at Clemson, where he’s in his second season on Swinney’s staff.
But none of his players will ever wear No. 28 while donning the orange and purple. Spiller’s jersey number has been retired.
“When I was young, I wrote down all of my goals of what I wanted to accomplish as a player going from high school to college into the pros,” Spiller said. “The thing I always wrote down was I always wanted to be known as one of the best to leave each stop I had along the way. And now, to be considered one of the best at Clemson, it means a lot not only to me but my family, my teammates and my university.”
As for why he ultimately decided to play for what were Tommy Bowden’s Tigers at the time when he had his pick of the college litter – beyond wanting to go somewhere that reminded him of his small hometown in Florida – Spiller said it was the people that sold him on Clemson.
“It was the only visit I went on where I called back home and told my mom that I think I could come for three or four years,” Spiller said. “And I had been to some very prestigious institutions on my official visits, but it was something different when I got up to Clemson that made me make that phone call back home and tell her that. And when I got there, they lived up to it.”
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