I spoke at length recently with Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd about his career at Clemson, his maturation process and his desire to leave a legacy in Death Valley. Most of that conversation led to this story, but not all of it. Here are some more highlights from Boyd as he prepares to face No. 5 Florida State in Death Valley on Saturday.
Why is that so important to you, leaving a legacy?
Tajh Boyd: I look at everything from a life standpoint. If you leave this world without leaving an imprint on anything, then your time on this earth was useless because you didn’t impact anything or anybody. You’re only there for your selfish reasons. That’s the same way I think about football, the same way I think about programs. Your mark has to be left at some point or another. If not, you’re going to get lost and never going to be remembered and in a way, just not significant. That’s why it’s so important to carry yourself in the right way, so you can be remembered in a good way. Lasting impressions are the best ones and the most useful ones. It was just important for me to even be that first quarterback, be in that first class. Coach [Dabo] Swinney dubbed it as “The Dandy Dozen.” It was a fun time, and that’s something we’ll always remember.
What’s it been like having your parents there with you throughout your whole career?
TB: It’s been really good. It’s good because through my time in college, my time here, I’ve grown from a kid to a man, to an adult. It’s good they’ve seen the process, they’ve seen the transition. It’s all new for them as well. Same way with the process of getting ready for the NFL. It’s good they’re here to see how everything goes, how everything works. It won’t be new to just me, but for all of us to be in it together at the same time. They’ve seen the ups and downs that I’ve had here, moments where I didn’t feel so good. Moments where I was really excited. They got a chance to see all of that. They were my shoulder to lean on, especially in the early years. Now it’s to the point where I handle everything in stride. But it was good to have them here, especially during that redshirt sophomore year.
What are some of the obstacles you’ve gone through? What are some of the tough times you’ve had at Clemson?
TB: It was mainly the sophomore year. There was a lot of things happening. First-year starter, not knowing how to handle certain things. We’re 8-0. We go on the road, lose to Georgia Tech. I’m a Heisman candidate at this point -- it’s going to be three years, it’s time to win one now -- but I come home, the house is egged. I’m sure you remember that, right there. You go through that and you’re in a slump. We lost four out of the last six games that year. It was a time where I needed somebody to talk to and I felt like I was alone. That stage right there helped develop me into the person I am right now and the player I am right now. I mean, especially in this position, playing the quarterback role, you have to be prepared for everything in every situation. All of those games helped shape me for sure.
Adam Humphries told me you sit in on the offensive staff meetings. Do they just treat you like one of the guys? How does that work?
TB: They treat me like one of the guys. It’s fun to sit down and have a [conversation] with those guys. When we’re in the quarterback room, in the second half of meetings, coaches explain stuff, but when you’re in with the staff, you understand why they do things the way they do. You hear the bickering between the coaches about how we should protect this, how we should do that. It gives me an appreciation for the job they do.
Do you weigh in, or do you sit there quietly?
TB: Oh, I weigh in. I’ve got input and things of that nature.
Humphries told me this past offseason is really when he noticed a rededication on your part to your body and what you eat and losing weight. Is that true, and what was your mentality on that?
TB: For this offense to be at its peak performance, I have to be at my peak performance. It’s really true. Coach always says this offense is going to go how I go. It’s important the way I carry myself, the way I carry myself in front of my teammates. It all correlates. I want to be the hardest worker every time I step on that field. I’m not going to say it happens every time, but it’s kind of easy to get caught up and you want to just be one of the guys, but you can’t be, because you’re leading. Your emotions weigh heavily, your body language, your demeanor. That’s one of the things coach says to me all the time, because those guys look at what I do and the way I handle myself, carry myself. If we’re up in a game, if we’re down in a game, I have to be an extension of those coaches when I’m out on that football field.
What do you think is the biggest difference in you from the last time you played Florida State?
TB: The maturation process. The thing about playing guys like that, is those guys are really competitive at all times. They’re going to have the athletes to match up. You have to play the whole game. You can’t take a quarter off. You can’t take a series off, because those guys capitalize on it. When you’re playing teams like that -- especially on the road, especially on the road -- you have to be dialed in as a team, not just on offense. Last year one of the changing points was when they ran a kickoff – I don’t know if they ran it back, but it was damn near close, like the 2- or 3-yard line or something. We were up and then the momentum shifted so heavily. I looked at the crowd and I was like, ‘Wow.’ In my mind, I was like, ‘We’ve gotta spark something right here.’ We got pinned deep, got a sack on third down, and it just erupted. It’s tough in a situation like that. In a crowd like that, and an environment where a team gets hyped up, you’ve gotta go out there and try and find a way to weather it. We’ve grown in those aspects, and we’ve grown as a defense tremendously, as well. Even if you look at the Syracuse game, there were times we weren’t doing what we were supposed to do and the defense just kept responding, kept fighting.
It was the same thing at NC State, too.
TB: For sure. I think last year, if we don’t score on offense, we’re praying on offense, like, ‘I hope the defense gets a stop.’ Now it’s like, we know these guys are going to get a stop, we just have to go out there and do our jobs. It’s good to have balance all over the field. It’s just been a pretty impressive year just to see the maturation and growth of this team in general.