Clemson Football

Travis Etienne on his return: "I'm trying to leave a legacy"

March 3, 2020
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From the outside looking in, Travis Etienne’s decision to return to Clemson was a surprise for most fans. The rising senior has reset the rushing record books in Clemson and the ACC, but it was a visit home and a conversation with a friend that helped him decide what was most important.

Following Clemson’s 42-25 loss to LSU in the national championship, Etienne spent some time at home with his parents walking through the upcoming decision. 

“I just went home for the week, contemplated things. I sat down with my parents. Just thought about what we really thought mattered the most when it’s all said and done with my playing career and football as a whole,” Etienne said.

After rushing for a school-record 4,038 career yards with 56 touchdowns, Etienne has already placed his name among the all-time greats, but he still wants more. He needs just 565 yards to become the ACC’s all-time leader in yardage and already holds the record for rushing touchdowns with 56 and total career touchdowns with 62.

“I’m trying to leave a legacy and just trying to be remembered forever.”

Heading into his final season, the Jennings, La., native has an opportunity to extend his record-setting numbers and could put them out of reach for a long time, if not forever.

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence give Clemson the best 1-2 punch in college football.

“I feel like coming back now gives me the chance to be one of the all-time greats here, not just in college football,” Etienne noted.

As for his decision to return to Clemson, the senior running back said it wasn’t as complicated as many would have thought.

“It wasn’t hard at all. Honestly, I knew what I was gonna do, like Tuesday. I just kind of milked the system. That way I could not go to class, take a break, give my body a rest. I just kind of sat around played 2K,” Etienne stated. “My mom would ask me once a day if I was sure about my decision. I talked to my grandmother. Just kind of talked to different people to get insight.”

For the second time in his career, Etienne left the Superdome field on the wrong end of the final game of the season, just his third loss as a college player, and it didn’t sit well.

“I want to finish it off the right way with a win. I want to be better at special teams, continue to improve my craft, become a pro at my position to be able to teach the position to anyone on any level of football.”

Another motivating conversation for Etienne came while playing video games with a friend back home. 

“He gave me some great advice. He was like, ‘whatever you did to make the decision to go to Clemson, use that same process,’ and it just clicked right there. I knew what I needed to do, and that’s coming back and getting my degree,” Etienne said.

“He gave me some great advice. He was like, ‘whatever you did to make the decision to go to Clemson, use that same process,’ and it just clicked right there. I knew what I needed to do, and that’s coming back and getting my degree,” Etienne said.

From his standpoint, there is still a lot to improve on, and special teams play is an area that Etienne believes he can make gains in 2020.

“(I want to) Improve my route running ability, being a threat with a deep ball now. Continue to master my craft and to be a threat with or without the ball,” Etienne stated. “Just continue to get better at little things, and I feel if I just continue to work on those things, my overall game is going to improve, and that way I can be on the field at any time.”

He’s also working on diversifying his skillset as well during his final run in Tiger Town.

“Hopefully, I’ll get a couple of opportunities to go out there, so what I can do on special teams that way I can show teams in the NFL that I can be a great special team player.”

In fact, Etienne has been fielding punts but noted that you shouldn’t expect to see him doing that anytime soon.

“I’m like sixth on the depth chart (at punt returner). I’m just out there getting reps trying to create that muscle memory, so even if they put me in, I’ll be ready. Just trying to be able to play anywhere on the field and make myself more valuable by being able to be plugged in anywhere.”

Heading into the 2020 season, the versatile running back hopes to take his game up one more level and secure a coveted first-round draft grade and add something equally as important to him, a diploma from Clemson University.

“I just felt like I could come back and improve that grade. I don’t have my degree, coming back, going second-round, at least I’ll have my degree,” Etienne noted.

As he rides off into the college football sunset next spring, Etienne will do it with a diploma in one hand, and possible another ACC Player-of-the-Year award, or even a Heisman Trophy in the other. Not to mention another shot at being taken in the first round of the NFL draft.

“Leaving for the second round has never been a dream of mine. I could do so much better than that, and the NFL is going to be there. I wasn’t leaving with no second-round draft grade.”

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Travis Etienne on his return: "I'm trying to leave a legacy"

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