Note: The following appears in the Duke gameday football program
For the younger crowd, an ACC that does not stretch from Boston to Miami or from Syracuse to Louisville with all points in between may see hard to fathom. But for the more seasoned (some would say old) Clemson crowd, the days of the ACC that featured only eight schools was compact with intense rivalries. Clemson and its neighbors from the North, known as the “Big Four” (Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest) made every meeting memorable.
Chris Register, a graduate defensive end, is much too young to recall the classic battles on the gridiron during the 1970s and 1980s. But his ties to the Tar Heel State and a close relationship with former Tiger great and College Football Hall of Famer Jeff Davis, who also hails from the same hometown and high school, make him a success story no matter the era.
When Register, a Greensboro, N.C., native and Dudley High School product, was recruited for his prowess on the gridiron, he began to hear about another linebacker from Dudley High School who achieved success at the highest level for Clemson.
Jeff Davis was an All-America linebacker for Clemson from 1978-81 and was named league MVP in 1981, a year that saw Clemson claim its first national championship. He was chosen for the Clemson Ring of Honor in 1995 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
While Register was not familiar with all of Davis’ accomplishments early on at Dudley High School, he began to realize the legacy the fellow Greensboro product left at Clemson and continues to in his role as the football program’s director of players relations & external affairs as well as P.A.W. Journey.
“Even to this day, we talk about what he accomplished at Dudley High School and Clemson,” said Register. “When I was being recruited by Clemson, I found out more and more about him. He was not only one of the greatest to ever play at Clemson, he is a person still helping student-athletes with P.A.W. Journey today. Having a very close relationship with someone who has been where I have been has been a big help for me.”
The comparison to Davis was also evident in the number he was assigned at Clemson. While he did not request #45, he knows it has special meaning.
“The opportunity to wear #45 is special to me,” said Register. “I know the legacy Jeff Davis has left. It is an honor to have worn that number since I came to Clemson.”
When Davis, now in his 15th year working directly with the football program, was informed that Clemson was interested in another Greensboro product, he was pleased. He was even more thrilled after getting to know Register, the person, during the last five years.
“Chris has always tried to make the most of his opportunities,” said Davis. “He has bought into the fact that when you come to Clemson, you are more than just a football player. Chris has taken advantage of anything and everything that has been afforded him. Whether it be a micro-internship, resumé writing or career development, Chris had made the most of it.”
Register graduated with a degree in sociology in December, and his success off the field is no surprise. His dedication to academics, which goes back to taking college courses while at Dudley High School, has allowed him to enjoy success at Clemson in spite of injuries and a position change.
“My background growing up was pushing myself in academics. My parents, Chris and Cheryl, and my mom, Belinda, made sure I was doing the right things in school.
“When you come to college, you have a vision of what you want your athletic and academic career to look like. I have come through a lot of hurdles with injuries and a position change…I am thankful for that. With those bumps in the road, I realized that football will not last forever.”
While injuries and a position change from linebacker to defensive end have been challenging, the hard work and dedication Register has displayed has been evident in 2018. When the Tigers played at Wake Forest on Oct. 6, he served as one of the team captains and had a career-best day with two tackles for loss in the 63-3 victory. It was a day Register will always remember.
“It meant so much to be a captain at Wake Forest, which is close to home. I was able to go out and perform well in front of a lot of people who mean so much to me. To have a good game and be a part of a big win there is a highlight for me.”
When Clemson squares off against Duke, Register looks to end his career with a perfect record against teams from North Carolina. The Tigers are 9-0 in ACC games against Tar Heel State teams (and 10-0 with a win over Appalachian State) during his four active seasons. Being a part of such success is not something that is taken for granted.
“I have always been proud to play against North Carolina teams. There are so many guys on those teams who I played against in high school. To be able to see those guys and have success is special.”
As Register’s time at Clemson is drawing to a close, the affable young man is already pointing towards the future. The grit displayed from his time in high school and now at Clemson leaves little doubt about his future success.
Where that success will be is not yet known (he somewhat jokingly asked that interested employers contact him through the football office), but he is confident that is just around the corner.
“I am the kind of person who wants to do something to help the community and change people for the better. I am already looking ahead to the next challenge in my life.”