Cervenka: Simpson's Touchdown ‘Big Man’s Dream’

Jeremy Styron

Senior offensive lineman Gage Cervenka plays an important part in helping running back Travis Etienne and other Tigers break through the line for extra yards and points, but when Clemson’s coaching staff put forth a plan for a fellow O-line member to get into the scoring frenzy against N.C. State, Cervenka was all-in.

With a commanding four-touchdown lead late in the second quarter, Clemson brought in senior guard “Big John” Simpson, who ran out of a jumbo formation and trucked behind senior lineman Nyles Pinckney for a 1-yard touchdown run. The Tigers took a 35-0 lead heading into the locker room en route to a 55-10 victory against the Wolfpack.

“I was so excited,” Cervenka said about the play. “I’m glad he got the opportunity. We had been practicing that for three weeks and just to finally have an opportunity for us to run it and put him in was awesome. That’s a big man’s dream is to get the opportunity to do it.”

Cervenka said that at first, Simpson didn’t seem sure about whether he had crossed the plane of the end zone.

“It was funny because he got in, and he kind of questioned it,” Cervenka said. “He was like, ‘Did I score?’ because it was close. He was like, ‘Did I get in?’ Finally, when he saw the ref’s signal that he got in, I just started punching him in the head. We all started teeing off on him.”

During most plays, of course, Cervenka is pass-blocking for quarterback Trevor Lawrence or run-blocking for Etienne.

“It’s crazy; it’s awesome,” Cervenka said about blocking for Etienne, who has more than 1,200 yards rushing so far in 2019 and is averaging 8.9 yards per play. “I’ll definitely be able to brag about that to my kids when I’m older. Having a guy back there like that makes us more confident, in a way, because we know that we have one of the best backs in the country behind us. It kind of makes things easier and makes us strive to be our best so that way he can go and get more records.”

Cervenka, who will run down the hill and rub the rock one last time in the regular season Saturday at home against Wake Forest, described the experience of playing at Clemson “incredible” and “life changing.”

“I’ve been blessed to come in at a wonderful time,” he said. “It’s seriously been some of the best years of Clemson football. We’re just getting started, but I’ve been very blessed with this opportunity. It’s changed my life. I’ve gotten two degrees out of it. If I didn’t have football, who knows what I’d be doing? I probably wouldn’t be in college. I can tell you that.”

He said he enjoys traveling to play the South Carolina Gamecocks the most, which he will have the chance to do in a couple weeks at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia for the Tigers' final game of the regular season against their bitter in-state rival.

“Going on my fifth year, I would say, crazy enough, the South Carolina game,” was his favorite road game, Cervenka said. “... Just going up there and being (in) that hostile environment with a team I really don’t like growing up a Clemson fan, a team that has a lot of hatred I guess you could say. But we’ll get to them in a couple of weeks. We’ve got to focus on Wake Forest first.”