Note: The following appears in the Boston College gameday football program.
Senior offensive lineman and two-time national champion Sean Pollard is contributing much more than just keeping the defense away from his quarterback. Shortly after his freshman year, Pollard was doing community service with the team when he realized he had a chance to create something incredible.
“I felt like God was calling me to do something a little different. I love serving. I came from a serving family that always tried to put others before themselves.”
Pollard’s family is strong in its faith, and he believes God was making an effort to reach out to him and accomplish something together. It was then that he got in touch with Jessie Carroll, who was a coordinator of the P.A.W. Journey program at the time. P.A.W Journey is a program-wide initiative for Clemson football that encourages student-athletes and coaches alike to become the best leaders and role models they can be off the field.
Carroll put Pollard in touch with Clement’s Kindness, an organization that provides support to families with children suffering from pediatric cancer. After walking around the facilities for hours and mingling with the children, whose ages ranged from newborn to 18 years old, Pollard noted that each kid had a different energy about them, meaning that some were looking to talk and have conversations, while others were more inclined to keep to themselves and stay rested. That did not stop Pollard from seeing the impact he was making across the board.
“Even the kids who didn’t want to talk…just my position being on the football team brought a smile to their face and lightened them up.”
After his meetings with the children, parents approached him to thank him for stopping by, and in some cases, they claimed his presence brought their child their first smile in days.
The Jackson Springs, N.C. native was deeply moved by the experience.
“Once I left, I sat in my truck and cried. I cried the entire ride back from Greenville. I said, ‘God, tell me what you want me to do,’ and that’s when we started All Off for Cancer.”
All Off for Cancer is a fundraising event where the football players have their heads shaved by kids in order to raise money for the families dealing with pediatric cancer. It started out with about 10 people and 20 kids ready to dehair the willing Tigers.
“These kids were gashing us…hair all messed up. Before it ended, I took off to the bathroom and took a disposable razor and shaved my head. I came out bleeding because it was so sharp, but it raised $10,000 that year.”
The following year, Pollard got other teams involved, citing Tanner Dieterich and Nolan Lennon of the Tiger men’s soccer team as the frontrunners alongside him.
Over the two years, the event raised $23,000 for the families. It is important to Pollard that the money does not go to research, but towards helping these families directly, given all their expenses and time commitments.
Pollard has no intention to slow down his charity work once his days at Clemson come to an end. His ultimate goal is to reach the NFL, where he can grow his following and eventually make the organization his own.
However, football is not what keeps him invested in his cause. If a professional career on the football field is not in his future, he would look to bring his charity work to his next opportunity.
“Whatever situation I’m in, I’m going to grow my organization and make it better. You can’t go wrong with charity, right?”
For Pollard, the desire to serve does not stop with his work fighting pediatric cancer. If a career in the NFL does not pan out, the grandson of a Vietnam War veteran plans to spend 10-12 years in the military, looking to be in one of the elite smaller teams, hopefully with special operations.
His tireless work off the gridiron has not stopped him from having a large contribution at the line of scrimmage. In his time at Clemson, the 6’5”, 310-pound gentle giant played both offensive tackle and offensive guard prior to 2019 before landing as the starting center for Dabo Swinney’s squad this season.
It was his freshman year, when he played offensive tackle, when Pollard contributed to Clemson’s first national title since 1981. He recalled his experience with that legendary team, particularly his memory of being in the huddle before the play that won the game.
“I literally remember us calling it in the huddle and I said, ‘Yep, that’s a touchdown.’ We all knew it and we left the huddle with a smile on our face.”
After that season is when Offensive Linemen Coach Robbie Caldwell asked Pollard, who referred to himself as a “bigger guy,” if he would be willing to move inside. Pollard obliged and began the difficult transition.
“I had to change my mentality because it’s a lot different inside. The closer you get to the ball, the faster it hits you. There’s a lot of bigger guys inside, not as fast, but going against Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence every day helps you learn the position.”
Pollard did not take his first snaps at center until the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame.
“We were short on guys, so I told Coach Caldwell I could do it, and then this year, he gave me the chance to prove that I could do it. All the coaches have backed me ever since. I work every day to be the best I can, and it’s been awesome. Center is my favorite position by far.”
The game and season that followed the Notre Dame contest are far more engraved into Pollard’s memory than his freshman year.
“I remember everything last year. Coach Swinney has a saying, ‘People give roses to people after they die in appreciation of them, but why not give someone roses when they’re alive to tell them how much you appreciate them?’ That’s how we stopped and smelled the roses during last season. We appreciated what we were doing, and we knew we were a special team.”
That is different to Pollard’s recollection of the 2016 national championship squad. During his freshman season, he was so caught up in the moment that he barely even remembers any of the games because he never stopped for a moment to take it all in.
As the starting center this season, Pollard is making sure that he will not make that mistake again and is taking action to ensure that he follows Swinney’s advice to take it all in while he can. He is collecting a gameday program from all of the Tigers’ 2019 matchups, both home and away, in hopes of creating a strong and meaningful memory of his senior campaign.
If he and the Tigers continue their success on the field, he should be left with a fond recollection, as well as even more opportunities to follow what he believes is his purpose given to him by God.
Regardless of what happens this season, Pollard has made an incredible contribution, both on and off the field, and he has given Tiger fans someone they can feel proud to cheer for each and every Saturday.