Ella Strong. The words that are easily visible on Bryan Bresee's sleeve on Saturday's in Death Valley.
With the Tigers looking to win a seventh straight ACC title, as well as attempting to get back to the College Football Playoff for a seventh consecutive season, this Clemson team has plenty to play for in 2021. However, Bresee is motivated by more.
The sophomore defensive tackle's younger sister, Ella, is in the middle of a battle for her life. Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Instead of sitting in the stands at Death Valley watching her big brother wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines, Ella is instead, having to watch from home.
After the Tigers 14-8 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, last season's ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year said his little sister, and her battle, provide him with all the motivation he needs.
"That's really who I'm playing for this season," Bresee said. "She's going through a really tough battle right now and I think her being able to watch me on TV, it just brings a lot of joy to her. So anything I can do to make it special for her is what I do. Just really keep going and hopefully here in the postseason she'll be able to get done with chemo and make it to the next couple of games. So it's really what I'm playing for and fighting for this whole remainder of the season."
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The Tigers needed a late goal-line stand to secure the win over the Yellow Jackets, but according to Bresee, it was just another night at the office for the Clemson defense.
"That's the heart of the defense really," Bresee said. "This is kind of what we do. We don't expect them to score even if they're in the red zone. We go out there and do whatever we can to keep them out and that's what we did tonight."
Now in his second season in the program, Bresee has become one of the anchors of the Clemson defensive front. Against Georgia Tech, the big defensive tackle recorded a career-high 1.5 sacks, picked off the first pass of his career, and helped seal the game by hauling in a desperation forward lateral attempt on the Yellow Jackets’ final play.
Bresee and the the Clemson defense managed to keep Georgia Tech out of the end zone for all four quarters and have yet to allow an opponent to score a touchdown through the season's first three-games. It's the first time the program has accomplished that feat in more than six decades.
While Bresee was planning to take some time Saturday night to celebrate the accomplishment, Sunday was spent starting to prepare for the next opponent, North Carolina State, while also looking for areas in which he can improve. At the same time, he'll be thinking of Ella, the little sister that motivates him.
"They'll give us our little congratulations tonight," Bresee said. "Then tomorrow, it's on to the next game, NC State. They were stoked about how we played tonight but like I said there's always room for improvement."
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