Note: The following appears in the Wake Forest gameday football program.
Graduate safety Tanner Muse has made a name for himself in Death Valley as a hard-hitting defender. The Belmont, N.C. native began his football career at six years old, and his ability to hit stems from his dad’s training.
“From the first time I ever strapped on pads, my dad and I would go out in the front yard, and he bought his own set of shoulder pads and helmet. He said, ‘If you can hit me as hard as you can, nothing else will phase you throughout your playing career.’”
Clemson can thank former Associate Head Coach Dan Brooks for bringing Muse and his talents to Tigertown.
“I came here because of Dan Brooks. He was my recruiter. He’s from Kings Mountain, which is right down the road from where I’m from in Belmont. He sealed the deal for me by being around him and seeing what kind of guy he was. That’s what brought me to Clemson. That and the family atmosphere.”
The last point rings true for Muse, as the connections he has made with people in Clemson are his favorite things about being a Tiger.
“It’s all of the friends I’ve made, all of the people I’ve met. Being able to be around this group of guys has been awesome. Every year that we have new guys coming in or old guys who I came in with, it’s been awesome and a blessing for me to be around those guys.”
Although Muse is a hard-hitter, his most memorable Clemson moment was his first interception against Syracuse in 2016.
“It’s probably my first interception against Syracuse at home. It went off a couple of legs and some hands. I was on SportsCenter with the No. 1 play. It was mindblowing to be able to see that on video on ESPN. It was a dream of mine as a kid.”
Although Muse is now known for his skills on the gridiron, he was a standout baseball player in high school and was originally going to continue to play on the diamond at Clemson. However, Muse made the decision to stick with football.
“It was spring football. That was probably the deciding factor. As a high school kid, you don’t really know how much time you have to invest into football, and seeing how much time I’d have to invest to stake my name and stake my claim as a good defensive back, I’d have to do spring training as well for football instead of baseball. That sealed the deal of what I needed to do.”
Even though Muse is no longer playing baseball, his time on the diamond has given him some skills, including flexibility, that he has been able to take to the gridiron on Saturdays at Memorial Stadium.
“When I was in high school, that was really big for us, for shoulder work and hip mobility. Also, it’s the appreciation of the game.
“In spring practice, you can get all torn up about it. You don’t really have any games and you’re just banging against your teammates.”
Muse certainly made the right choice. A force on Clemson’s defense, he earned Third-Team All-ACC honors in 2018 and was a Thorpe Award semifinalist this year, accolades that are “a blessing.”
“I want to thank all of the coaches who have gotten me to this level and my parents. They pushed me to be the best player I could be.
“Being in the category with some of those guys, they’re big-name guys who have been doing it for a long time. It’s a blessing. I can’t thank the Lord above enough for putting me in this position, and then hopefully I fulfill the game through Him.”
Although Muse is a Tiger, his house is divided, as his brother, Nick, is a tight end at South Carolina. However, the brothers mostly look past the rivalry to root for each other.
“We keep up with each other. I always try to watch his games. We haven’t been able to get different times on games, so it’s been hard to watch him live. I always keep up with him, ask him how he did and he does the same thing for me. There’s no real rivalry between us, but there is a bye week right before the week we play, so we’ll see how that goes.
“I’m looking forward to playing against him. It’ll be awesome. It’s something you dream of growing up with your brother. He’s two years younger than me, so we always thought we could play together or play against each other at every stage. It’s awesome to see him grow and mature. I’m excited for that game.”
With the brothers playing on opposite sides of the ball, there is the potential Tanner could tackle Nick, which is a source of good fun in the Muse household with bragging rights on the line.
“We always talk about it. My dad is on his side most of the time, telling me I better strap my pads on tight. He knows what it’s going to be. I’m going to try to hit him as hard as I can, and he knows that. He’ll probably try to juke me out or try to run me over, so it is what it is. We’ll see who gets the better of us.”
Listed as a safety, Muse plays somewhat of a safety/linebacker hybrid, making him a versatile player.
“I’ve been covering a lot of guys lately. I’ve gotten a lot better at that. My style of play is downhill. I try to hit people as hard as I can and make people pay for running the ball.
“Lately, I’ve been trying to rover the quarterback and keep my eyes on him and try to help the guys play man-to-man if I’m single-high most of the time. It’s a very versatile position. I’ve been able to do a lot of things this year. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Among everything he does, Muse enjoys hitting the most. He loves the opportunity to put his strength up against another player and see who comes out on top.
With this season being his final one as a Tiger, Muse has been trying to focus on having joy in 2019. He notes some of his other seasons have been stressful with trying so hard to play well, but this year, Muse is finding joy in everything he does, from the early morning workouts to the games.
When his time at Clemson ends, Muse will attempt to make it in the NFL. If that path does not work out, he will likely look to finish his graduate criminal justice degree. He is pondering working with kids or going into business as potential backup options.
Either way, Muse knows what it takes to knock down any obstacle in his way and find success.