Each year brings new life, new expectations, and new opportunities for the leaders within Clemson Football’s roster. Prior to the season’s start, P.A.W. Journey hosts an annually-occurring Player Symposium featuring various speakers, engagements, and outcomes to challenge the team in their holistic development.
The 2021 symposium provided time to establish leadership and identity within the team. Rather than hosting a speaker, P.A.W. Journey elected to hear from a panel of Clemson Football alumni, each with their own experiences, styles, personalities and dreams. Serving on the panel were alumni Andre Branch, Jarvis Jenkins, Coty Sensabaugh, Marcus Gilcrest, and JK Jay. The theme for the panel was: Life and Legacy. With the goal of sharing experiences, transitions, and triumphs, the panel answered tough questions with unyielding honesty. The panelists returned to the fields of Clemson to impart wisdom, share stories, and enjoy the brotherhood that exists among any Clemson Football players of the past, present and future.
The year 2020 has its fair share of challenges, of which impacted our student leaders in collective and individual contexts. Through the advisory of the P.A.W. Journey Ambassadors, the 2020 Symposium was led by the team, for the team. From gameshow MCs to group facilitators on world issues, our men created a space to share – to share in laughter, in emotional conversation, and in bonding as a football brotherhood. Roundtables to discuss COVID-19, social injustice, #Letusplay, and anything else on their hearts and minds served as an opportunity to connect and build trust for the unpredictable future.
Inky Johnson, former collegiate player whose career abruptly ended due to injury, delivered a message of Competitive DNA. This theme focused on the intangibles that each athlete possesses and how those skills can be applied to countless environments, showcasing many of his own testimonials and personal experiences. “Faith goes farther than talent” framed the mindset Inky encouraged our scholar-athletes to maintain when overcoming adversity and searching for the next steps. “Be activated,” another common phrase used, positioned each audience member to consider their presence and mindset in all arenas while challenging them to apply the intangibles they possess as often as possible.
Modeled after a familiar pre-game commitment with the All In Chips, each individual student was given five poker chips, with various colors denoting different identities held. The scholar-athletes then wrote which intangible they use the most when fulfilling the identities of: an athlete, a student, a leader, and a man. The final poker chip designation was for each student’s differentiator, or what intangible they felt they possess that they do better than anyone on the team.
P.A.W. Journey hosted the leadership team from Deviate, including Louis Upkins and Ryan Blanck, in 2018 to facilitate the Symposium. Through a values summit, each team member identified personal, group, and program-wide top values with corresponding accountability-based action items. After establishing team values, the group engaged with a notion that expands throughout Clemson Football: Have Fun. While learning to juggle, the team took time to reflect on patience in the process, mindfulness, and finding the joy in simply doing.
In 2017, personality and author Fonzworth Bentley provided insight on individual brand construction and detailed personal accounts of triumphs and adversities within his many identities as an entrepreneur, husband, father, and man of character.