TAMPA, Fla. – C.J. Spiller's eyes were red and he seemed on the verge of tears as he hung his head in disappointment, despite the glass trophy sitting on the table in front of him for being named the Most Valuable Player of the Dr. Pepper ACC championship game.
It wasn’t the trophy he came here for.
After a title-game record four rushing touchdowns, there wasn’t much more Spiller could do for his team. But it wasn’t enough as Clemson couldn’t find any other answers in its 39-34 loss to Georgia Tech in the school’s first-ever appearance in the ACC title game.
Despite the loss, Spiller said he had no regrets about his decision to return for another season instead of heading to the NFL early last year. Odds are the Tigers wouldn't have even had this opportunity had Spiller not made that choice.
“I’m very glad I came back,” he said. “It’s where I wanted to be at, the championship game, graduate, be doing that. So hopefully the other guys can see, even recruits, you come to Clemson, it’s no layoff. You’re going to compete for championships year in and year out. You’re going to have the opportunity to even graduate, which is our main priority. I’m very glad that I came back to play with my teammates. They taught me a lot this whole season about never giving up, just sticking in there and gut it out.”
Spiller again put up numbers worthy of Heisman consideration, but after the loss to South Carolina last Saturday, he seems to fall out of favor with many Heisman voters. His 233 rushing yards against Georgia Tech were a title-game record. He averaged an astounding 11.7 yards per carry. His 54-yard run in the fourth quarter was the longest run from scrimmage in an ACC title game, and he finished with the game’s four longest runs – 54, 41, 40 and 36 yards.
“He left it all on the field,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s all you can ask. He left everything he had on the field.”