Elliott Takes the 'High Road' with Family

Zach Lentz

CLEMSON— Few coaches have firsthand experience of playing in the team they are currently coaching’s rivalry game. 

That, however, is not the case for Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.

Elliott was a member of the Clemson receiving core from 2000-2003, and caught a pass in Clemson’s 63-17 victory over South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.

While he learned many things about the rivalry as a player, it was not until he stepped away from coaching for two years that he learned how much this game meant to the average person.

“The things I remember most is I had two high school teammates that went to South Carolina and I was the Clemson guy, and there was a lot of trash talk, but a mutual respect,” Elliott said. “Obviously, you hated them the week of the game, but at the end of the day we were just guys on the field competing with each other.

“I think I learned the most about the rivalry when I stepped away from the game, when I was done playing, going to work at Michelin and just seeing how much it meant to the people of this state and how hard they pull for their schools.”

For Elliott, this week is not just about him as a former player, and now coach at his alma mater, hoping that he can help lead the Tigers to victory for the fan base, as well as his current players—this game is still very personal for him.

“There’s no question. My sister graduated from the University of South Carolina, my aunt graduated as well,” Elliott said. “So there was a rough little spell there, but it’s always good to have those bragging rights and you know I think I always took the higher road when I had the upper hand, but when we were on the losing end—trust me, they let me know it.”

Heading into this week, Elliott admitted that it is a little different when you make the transition from player to coach, in part because of the relationships that are formed with coaches on the opposing staff.

Those relationships, however, are put on hold when it is rivalry week.

“I think from a coaching standpoint, you get to know guys and I know several guys on their staff so there’s a mutual respect, but when you’re in rivalry week we understand what it means to our players, to our community, to our university, to our state. So, there is a little bit of hatred in terms of the rivalry,” Elliott said. “But at the end of the day you have respect for Coach Muschamp and what he’s doing down there, but when we strap it up Saturday we’re trying to win the football game.”

While the Tigers enter this week’s game as heavy favorites over their in-state rivals, Elliott believes that the Clemson fan’s need-not worry about the Tigers overlooking the Gamecocks and looking ahead to next week’s ACC Championship Game, because everyone understands the importance of this game and what it means to their ultimate goal.

“This is one of the goals that is on our goal board,” Elliott said. We never come into the season with one of our goals being to win the National Championship. We have our goals set up that if we hit all of our goals then we will be in position, potentially, to play for it all. So, this is the next step. It’s a rivalry game. We’ve got a lot of guys from the state of South Carolina, a lot of guys from the state of Georgia that move into the state here at Clemson and understand what it’s about.

“I think the fact that it’s a rivalry game, there’s a lot on the line and they understand that there for a while we were on the lower end of this and we’re trying to get it shifted back in our perspective. So, they know all year how important this game is—so, they’re not looking ahead the one that we have next week.”