Oct. 9, 2000
By Bernie Merritt Clemson Sports InformationThe NC State Game Program – October 7, 2000
Juggling school and athletics is extremely difficult at any level. In high school most athletes participate in more than one sport while attempting to earn the best education they can. In college not much changes, except the one sport an athlete has selected to play exclusively is now taking up more time than playing three sports did in high school and there are classes that make the biology one had in high school seem like gym class. So for any athlete to excel on the field and make the grade is somewhat rare. But for this season’s Tiger team, Terry Witherspoon is just that rare.
As a partial qualifier out of high school, Witherspoon knew he would have to work harder in the classroom than just about anyone on the team. He also knew that at the collegiate level, football is incredibly time consuming, with the two-a-days, time in the weight room, time watching tape, daily practice and travel.
“In high school things were not always as time consuming. We still hit the weight room and the books, but I was always home pretty much by 7:30 or 8:00. Now I am lucky if I get home by 10.”
Witherspoon did not just give in though. He worked long, hard days to make the grades off the field and to prove all the accolades he carried with him to Clemson would not be forgotten.
Witherspoon hails from Monroe, NC where he played for Ted Baucom at Monroe High School. He earned all-conference honors four of his three years while playing five different positions: tailback, fullback, tight end, linebacker and defensive end. He was a Tom Lemming All-American and was one of the top eight fullbacks in the country according to that publication. Witherspoon was also rated the number six player in the state of North Carolina and by SuperPrep and an All-American selection by the National Recruiting Advisor. Bluechips named him the number five running back in the ACC region and the Plyler Report rated him one of the top eight fullbacks in the South as well. He was a four-year starter ringing up 2,780 yards rushing for his career on 422 attempts and scored 39 touchdowns. In his senior season he rushed for 1,002 yards alone while reaching the endzone 17 times. In his career on the defensive side of the ball, Witherspoon had 73 solo tackles, 44 assists and 12 sacks. He also caught a touchdown pass and threw for another.
So with all the honors and awards packed up, Witherspoon made his way from hometown to the Clemson campus.
“I was nervous. I knew that things would change and that I would not be the big star and that I would have to prove myself.”
Witherspoon’s chance to prove himself, however, would not come right away. He knew that he would have to redshirt because he was only a partial qualifier but that did not stop him from working as hard or harder than anybody else. Witherspoon decided to concentrate a lot more on his studies while making extra trips to the weight room and to the practice field. He knew that to make his high school stardom carry over into college, his work ethic would have to be that much more focused.
“I have always been encouraged in whatever I do and this time was no exception. Everybody knew I could do it and they all pushed me along 100 percent.”
So by the time spring ball ended and the 1997 season approached Witherspoon was more than ready to play.
He started in four games for the Tigers in the 1997 season. He rushed 12 times for 61 yards and a touchdown versus Georgia Tech and was 11 for 71 in the win at Wake Forest. Had a career-high 17 attempts in just 32 snaps in Tigers win over Duke. He also had one rush for a touchdown in the Peach Bowl versus Auburn.
“I will remember that touchdown as long as I live. It was just a great feeling to be in a bowl. That is one reason I came here was to be in bowls year in and year out.”
He would miss the only game of his career when he would not get a snap versus Virginia.
However, his tremendous play on the field in 1997 and his continuing effort to not let his grades slip vaulted Witherspoon into a starting role in 1998 in just his second full year of play. He scored three touchdowns in 1998, the second most on the team. He played 35 plays per game and played at least 26 snaps every game. Had his best performance against South Carolina when he carried the ball eight times for 31 yards in the Clemson victory.
His success on and off the field continued into the 1999 as he was the only active player to score a touchdown in a bowl game before the Tigers would face Mississippi State in the Peach Bowl. He also ran for a touchdown versus North Carolina and carried the ball nine times for 33 yards in the opener versus Marshall.
Witherspoon is the first string fullback once again this year for the Tigers and the coaches look for some quality playing time from him and applaud him for his strong work ethic. The coaches also applaud the work he has done off the field as well. Before his first carries in the Wake Forest game this season, Witherspoon had already showed that he could go from a partial qualifier out of high school to one or the finest Clemson student-athletes, graduating from Clemson in August 2000 with a degree in Industrial Education.
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