Sept. 29, 2010
In college football, consistency is the key to winning football games. Coaches want their teams to play with the same level of intensity every single week. They also want their players to be consistent in the way they perform.
One player who knows what it takes to be consistent is graduate cornerback Byron Maxwell. The North Charleston, SC native has never missed a game in his college career. However, Maxwell had to overcome some obstacles before becoming the Tigers’ starting cornerback.
Maxwell tore his ACL during his senior year at Fort Dorchester High School, causing him to miss his final season with the Patriots.
“It was tough having to miss an entire football season, but I had support, so it turned out ok,” he said.
Despite the injury, Maxwell was still a highly-rated prospect coming out of high school. He ended up choosing Clemson over Georgia, South Carolina, and several other programs. Maxwell said he picked the Tigers because of their tradition.
“It was the Hill more than anything and the tradition that comes with Clemson,” added Maxwell.
The injury continued to affect Maxwell after arriving at Clemson and he red-shirted in his first season (2006) as he continued to recover from the torn ACL.
“It wasn’t that difficult red-shirting that year because I knew I was going to red-shirt coming into the season,” #36 admitted. “It was harder playing the next season in 2007 after having not played competitive football in almost two years.”
In 2007, Maxwell was finally able to get back on the field for the first time in two years. He played 17 snaps and recorded a pass breakup in his first game as a Tiger in the season-opener against #19 Florida State.
During the 2007 season, Maxwell recorded at least three tackles six times, including a season-high six tackles and two tackles for loss against #21 Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. For the 2007 season, he played double-figure snaps in every game and recorded 27 tackles, including four tackles for loss, four pass breakups, and a sack.
Maxwell continued to excel in 2008. He recorded at least three tackles in all but three games and totaled five or more tackles in six of the 12 games. Maxwell led all non-starters in tackles (54) that season, including three tackles for loss and four pass breakups.
He tallied 21 of his 54 tackles on special teams, which led the team, and was named the team’s special teams player-of-the-week three times. His best performance of the 2008 season came in a 13-3 victory at Virginia when he registered a career-high eight tackles with two tackles for loss and received defensive player-of-the-week honors from the coaches.
In 2009, Maxwell again led the team in special teams tackles with 15. Entering the 2009 season, Maxwell had not recorded an interception in his career. He was able to change that against Florida State. The Seminoles had the ball and faced a second-and-11 on their own 16 with less than 2:00 remaining in the first half. Christian Ponder attempted to throw a pass when it was intercepted by Maxwell. His interception return gave Clemson the ball on the Seminole 24, which set up the Tigers with good field position late in the first half.
The following week, Maxwell picked off another pass at N.C. State to add to his total. Only DeAndre McDaniel (8) and Rashard Hall (6) had as many or more interceptions for the season. He also recorded 36 tackles for the year, with a tackle for loss and five pass breakups.
Throughout his first three active seasons, Maxwell played behind a pair of talented cornerbacks. Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor both had solid college careers and made it to the NFL. Maxwell was able to learn from both during his college career.
“I am trying to be a leader like they were,” said Maxwell. “But the biggest thing I learned was how to handle the ups and downs.”
Maxwell believes waiting also helped him be more prepared for a starting role. “Seeing how Crezdon and Chris handled being a college football player really helped. In high school, no one really makes plays on you, but they do in college and you have to learn to deal with that.”
Entering the 2010 season, he had played 937 snaps despite never having started a game. However, he became the starter at cornerback this season and shined in his first game in a starting role. Maxwell forced a fumble on Clemson’s first kickoff of the season against North Texas. He was also able to prevent the Mean Green from putting more points on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
With just under seven minutes to play in the game and the Tigers leading 35-10, the Mean Green drove down the field. On third-and-goal from the Clemson seven, Nathan Tune threw a pass that Maxwell picked off in the endzone and downed for a touchback. It was a textbook way to play the fade pattern, as he got good position, fended off the receiver, spotted the ball, and snatched it out of the air.
“It was a good way to start the season off right,” he said about the interception.
Maxwell finished the game with six tackles in addition to the caused fumble and interception.
Two games later at #15 Auburn, Maxwell put a punishing hit on Onterio McCalebb in overtime, knocking him out cold. McCalebb laid on the field for several minutes but turned out to be ok.
“I knew it was a pretty good hit but I didn’t know when it happened that he was knocked out,” admitted Maxwell. “I was thinking about the next play.”
McCalebb was Auburn’s leading rusher in the game but was unavailable for Auburn’s third-and-six play in overtime, on which Cameron Newton threw an incomplete pass and forced Auburn to kick a field goal. Maxwell turned in a solid performance in the game with five tackles.
In three games this season, Maxwell has recorded 14 tackles with an interception. He has also now played in 43 consecutive games in his career.
“That means a lot to me, because I think there were some questions about my durability after the injury,” stated Maxwell. “But I have shown that I am going to be out there every game.”
At 6’1″ and 205 pounds, he is one of the bigger cornerbacks in the country and has drawn interest from NFL scouts because of his size. However, Maxwell said you still have to be able to play regardless of how big you are.
“If you’re big and slow, they won’t take you, so you still have to be able to play.”
In August of 2010, Maxwell graduated from Clemson with a degree in sociology.
“It meant a lot (to get my diploma), because that’s something that I will always have and no one can ever take that away from me,” smiled Maxwell.
Maxwell is not sure exactly what his plans are for the future, but he would like to remain involved in football as a coach or scout. His main goal for this season, though, is to be productive.
“When I leave, I want to be able to say that during my first season starting, I really did some good things.”
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