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Clemson Football

Turning right in the Paw Bistro put Payton Page in better shape and on the field

September 29, 2022
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Payton Page made his first start and played a career-high 23 snaps against La. Tech on September 17 with Clemson missing defensive line starters Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis and backup Tre Williams.

Seconds into the third quarter, the sophomore defensive tackle was down on the field with an apparent lower leg injury. He was slowed by the injury but returned to finish the game. 

On Saturday, the Tigers defeated No. 22 Wake Forest 51-45 in double overtime at Truist Field in Winston Salem, NC, approximately 30 minutes from Page's hometown of Greensboro, NC.

"Oh, yeah. We are going to be in North Carolina," Page said smiling when asked last week if he would be healthy and ready for action in Winston Salem. "Yeah, for sure, call me."

Page was optimistic, despite the probable return of Bresee, Davis, and Williams, because he had yet to miss a game and participated in 54 plays, only 22 shy of his freshman campaign total of 76. 

When the former Dudley High standout arrived at Clemson as an early enrollee in January of 2021, the defensive line was loaded with Bresee, Davis, Williams, DeMonte Capehart, Ruke Orhorhoro, Etinosa Reuben, and Darnell Jefferies, so the 6-foot-4 four-star recruit knew it would be tough to see the field.

Page said he was quickly humbled when practice started in the spring and former Tigers' defensive line coach Todd Bates had an eye-opening, candid conversation with him. That conversation revealed the depth chart wasn't the only obstacle to early playing time. 

“Coach Bates had to sit down with me and just told me, ‘you're not going to get on that field if you don’t drop weight.’”

Page was listed at 360 pounds on his recruiting biographies but checked in much heavier at Clemson. 

“Actually, I came in at 395, exactly,” he said.

“I hadn't weighed myself since that junior season. So, it was like when I got here and weighed in, it was a big shock to everybody. Coach Bates was pretty mad too because he thought I was 350 or something like that.”

In the state of North Carolina, the 2020 prep season was suspended until the spring of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that meant Page and running back Will Shipley, from Weddington High in Matthews, both reported to Clemson having not played a game since 2019. 

“COVID really messed me up,” Page explained. “I couldn't play so I gained so much weight. Basically, it was all video games and DoorDash."

Page said he played Call of Duty, Madden, and NBA 2K 'for hours' and ate McDonald’s while quarantined. So what Mickey D's menu items were dashed to him?

“I used to go Big Macs, a large fry, and Fanta with no ice,” he noted. “Every time.”

At the August 2021 weigh-in, he was down to 334 pounds and trimmed down even further this fall. 

“So, I basically worked my tail off and got down to 317.” 

To reach that weight, he said his diet consisted mostly of two grilled chicken salads and two chicken patties every day for about three months.

Staying the course required appropriate discipline from Page and according to him, it wasn’t easy. 

“It was just really hard to stay on point,” he said of the diet. “It was a bad point in my life."

And what was the most arduous part of maintaining the plan?

“Oh, it's the food they cook at the [PAW] Bistro,” replied Page. The Paw Bistro is located inside the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex and provides the team with nutritional meals before and after workouts. “Yeah, so after practice, you get to turn left where all the food is and then you got the right. It's the salad bar. I never got to turn left.”

The opposite turns in Paws ultimately represented a fork in the road for Page. A left turn could lead to more humbling days and the right turn, getting on the field and having the opportunity to play in front of friends and family in his home state.

“I got the salad and walked out the door because I couldn't stand watching other people eat that food."

Page was not credited with a tackle against La. Tech but he made an impact.

"He had two pressures. I mean, he was getting a lot of knockback,” Co-Defensive Coordinator Mickey Conn said about Page.

Page finished with one official quarterback pressure, a pass deflection, and a blocked field goal.  

Conn was also asked about Page, Capehart, and others seeing the field for extended snaps.

“When you play hopefully a 15-game season, you got to build that depth,” he answered. “You got to build that confidence.”

Page was questioned about the opportunities against the Bulldogs as well.

"Of course, it's good for us to go out there and get this experience now,” he responded. “Even though when Bryan [Bresee] and TD [Tyler Davis] get back, playing time will decrease a little bit. But still, now, I just got that experience and that confidence when I get in there. We're just going to click."

Bresee and Davis returned against Wake and made pivotal plays. Bresee made two tackles and a key pass deflection and Davis posted six tackles including 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. 

Page had one tackle but it was for a loss. He also participated in 19 plays. For the season, he is up to 73 snaps and four tackles. 

Coincidentally, with the weight loss and increased playing time, Page's confidence has gradually soared. 

"I'm just real comfortable where I'm at now,” Page asserted. "I'm just confident. My confidence is out the roof."

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Turning right in the Paw Bistro put Payton Page in better shape and on the field

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