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Aug 31, 2018

Outkicking Adversity

By: COLE LITTLE

Note: The following appears in the Furman gameday football program


The ultimate test of character is how someone responds in the face of adversity. In the case of Tiger placekicker Alex Spence, his admirable turnaround following an unforeseen insertion into the starting lineup last season indicated just how rich his character is.

Now in his fifth and final season as a Tiger, Spence is hoping to finish his college football career in fitting fashion by epitomizing just how far he has come in his life-changing journey.

“Football has taught me how to overcome adversity,” stated Spence while discussing the impact his Clemson career has had on him. “I never really went through any adversity in my life until last season, when I had a rough start and had to overcome that. And that helped me grow a lot as a person.”

Prior to attending Clemson, Spence put together a standout career as a placekicker at West Florence High School in Florence, S.C., where he was rated No. 34 on ESPN’s high school placekicking prospect list. Once at Clemson, Spence, like many young players suiting up at top-tier college football programs, had to pay his dues before eventually earning his place in the spotlight.

After redshirting his first-year freshman season in 2014, he went on to serve as a reserve placekicker during the next two seasons, when he garnered playing time on the occasional kickoff and extra point. Football remained Spence’s ultimate dedication throughout that time, bringing with it countless and priceless memories, such as taking part in two national championship games, which Spence will always cherish.

“As a whole, it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve traveled to many places and experienced a lot of new things. I’ve enjoyed it.”

Spence’s aforementioned place in the spotlight did indeed arrive, though in a rather unexpected fashion. Adding a tinge of drama to Spence’s rise up the depth chart, he was called upon to fill the void left by a season-ending injury suffered early in the 2017 campaign by starting placekicker Greg Huegel. Despite his early struggles as Clemson’s go-to kicker, Spence used his first taste of true adversity as fuel and fully committed to tweaking whatever it took to become a successful placekicker.

“I took a step back and adjusted my perspective on how I should go about each kick,” explained Spence. “It made a difference for the rest of the season.”

Steadily improving throughout the fall, Spence capped off his eventful 2017 season with two solid performances, as he went 5-5 on extra-point attempts and made a 46-yard field goal in the ACC Championship Game victory over Miami (Fla.), then he successfully made field-goal attempts from 44 yards and 42 yards in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, Clemson’s only points of the game.

“I remember being really confident the whole week and being excited to play in a big game like that,” said Spence on his performance in the ACC Championship Game. “I took advantage of the opportunity, so it was a good week.”

Finishing last season with a solid stat line of 9-14 on field-goal attempts and 41-43 on extra-point attempts, Spence progressed leaps and bounds during the course of the 2017 campaign and was quick to credit those who supported him throughout that process for his midseason turnaround.

From Spence’s younger brother, Austin, a junior long snapper for the Tigers, to P.A.W. Journey visionary and former Clemson football linebacker Jeff Davis, whom he considers a mentor, the close bonds that Tiger football has helped him forge and strengthen have contributed to his on-field and off-field successes.
Davis, in particular, has made a significant impact on Spence, as the career development tutelage offered by P.A.W. Journey helped Spence, a financial management graduate, land multiple internships in finance and sales industries.

“I got an internship in my junior year in the Clemson finance office because of Jeff Davis and P.A.W. Journey. I’ve benefited a lot from that program.”

While the real world is rapidly approaching for Spence, he aims to savor his final season as a Tiger by serving as a valued leader and catalyst for this season’s national championship-caliber team. Regardless of what this season has in store, he will always be able to fondly think back on his impressive overall performance under intense pressure and scrutiny when called upon to take the field as the starting placekicker in the 2017 season.
“Last season brought with it a realization that I can perform at a high level on the main stage. There were a lot of questions at first, because I’ve always been able to perform in practice, but I never had the opportunity to show what I have in games.”

A gifted student who was selected to the All-ACC Academic team last year, Spence showed that his acumen in the high-risk, pressure-packed fields of finance and sales could undoubtedly be translated to the gridiron when he came up with back-to-back clutch performances in Clemson’s two most pivotal contests of last season.
Spence still has unfinished business to attend to, as he is prepared to answer the call of duty in any way, shape or form during his final escapade with the Tigers this season. Having already overcome adversity on the gridiron, Spence is excitedly bracing himself for whatever the 2018 season may have in store, as he plans to make some more memories before his final kick is in the books.

“I want to make the most out of any opportunities that I do get and have fun and enjoy every last moment, because I know this is my last time doing everything. I want to make it memorable.”

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