Sugar Bowl will be a trip home for Clemson’s Etienne
By Alex Maminakis
CLEMSON — Growing up two-and-a-half hours west of New Orleans in Jennings, La., Travis Etienne always wanted to play football in the Superdome.
The famous venue annually hosts the Louisiana high school football championship games, but Jennings High School never made it that far while Etienne was playing there.
But now, after bursting onto the scene as a freshman running back at Clemson this fall, Etienne will get the chance to go home and take the field at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
“It’s always great going back home,” Etienne said. “I haven’t been there in, it feels like forever, so I’m definitely going to enjoy it. I get to see my family, and I get to play in the Superdome — it’s just crazy how everything works out.”
As the only Louisiana native on Clemson’s roster, Etienne is embracing the role of team adviser when it comes to what to eat and where to go when the Tigers get to New Orleans. Mother’s, a Cajun joint, is the first restaurant he recommends.
“I will be advising everybody on what they should get and where they should go,” Etienne said. “I’m going to advise them to try everything…try the whole nine yards.”
“That’s my man,” Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant added. “I’m going to be with Travis the whole time so he can tell me what to eat and what not to eat.”
Etienne leads top-ranked Clemson (12-1) in rushing this season with 744 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 7.2 yards per carry. On New Year’s Day, he and the Tigers will face a Crimson Tide (11-1) defense that leads the country in scoring defense, touchdowns allowed and yards per play.
The Tide are also third in the nation in rushing defense (94.1 per game), and Etienne knows the challenge he will face. After all, he grew up watching Alabama, LSU and SEC football that prides itself on its defense.
“It’s going be a very physical game,” he said. “They’re not going to give you anything. You have to just bring you’re ‘A’ game, be at your best every play, because they’re definitely going to be at theirs.
“It’s going be a hard-fought game, and it’s not gonna be a cakewalk. The game’s going to be won in the trenches.”
Etienne watched the national championship on Jan. 9 — when Clemson defeated Alabama 35-31 in Tampa, Fla. — at home with his mother, who was rooting for the Tigers. Etienne wasn’t as sure of Clemson’s chances in its second straight title matchup with the Tide.
“It’s ’Bama, mom,” he said he told his mother.
Almost a year later, Etienne himself will take the field with Clemson to face Alabama in a College Football Playoff semifinal game, and he’ll get to do it two-and-a-half hours from home in the stadium he’s always wanted to play in.
“It really didn’t dawn on me until the night after the ACC championship game,” Etienne said about getting to play in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. “It was just kind of surreal how everything happened. Last year during this time, I was a de-commit from Texas A&M, and now I’m playing for Clemson. How everything just changed so fast like that, it’s just all surreal.”
O’Daniel a Bowden Award finalist
Clemson graduate linebacker Dorian O’Daniel is one of four finalists for the 2017 Bobby Bowden Award, it was announced Friday. The honor is presented each year to the Division I player who epitomizes a student-athlete as he represents God, his family, his institution and his community.
The other finalists are Micah Kiser of Virginia, Harrison Phillips of Stanford and Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State.
O’Daniel leads the Tigers with 99 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He also has three passes broken up, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions — both of which he returned for touchdowns.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson won the Bowden Award last year. The award ceremony will take place on Jan. 7 in Atlanta.
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