Etienne Chronicles Decision To Return To Clemson

Brad Senkiw

CLEMSON — Travis Etienne’s decision to return to Clemson came during a game of NBA 2K20.

The program’s all-time leading rusher was playing the video game with a friend from his hometown of Jennings, Louisiana, when they were joking around and talking about Etienne’s decision to either enter the NFL draft or return for his senior season.

However, his friend gave Etienne some sound, logical advice: Implore the same decision making he used to end up at Clemson to make the final call on his future.

“I knew right then I wanted to come back and get my degree,” Etienne said.

Travis Etienne (9)

The senior running back said even though he was sure what he wanted to do, Etienne still “milked the system” a little to get some time off physically and mentally and a few more days before making it official. That of course was spent playing more video games.

The back-to-back ACC Player of the Year shared several other reasons for his decision to come back in his first interview Monday since his January announcement.

Etienne also wasn’t sold on his draft grade. He said he was given a late first, second-round projection for the 2020 draft from the College Advisory Committee of the NFL.

That, for Etienne, wasn’t high enough.

“I just felt like I could come back and improve that grade,” Etienne said. “I don’t have my degree. Coming back and going second round (in 2021), at least I’d have my degree. Leaving for the second round has never been a dream of mine. I feel like I can do so much better than that. The NFL is going to be there so I wasn’t leaving with no second-round draft grade.”

Getting that degree from Clemson is something he and his mom take very seriously. They also talk about the opportunity of what another year of college football could bring.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney felt like the program's and ACC's all-time leader in rushing and total touchdowns should’ve at least been a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back, last year. But he wasn’t. 

And while he garnered some Heisman Trophy hype and some votes, a trip to New York for the ceremony as a finalist in 2020 would be a fitting end to his career.

Doing all that could put him in some debatable conversations for most accomplished Clemson and ACC player, not just running back, ever.

“I just sat down and thought about what mattered the most,” Etienne said. “Just trying to leave a legacy. I’m trying to be remembered forever. Coming back gives me that chance to be one of the all-time greats here and in college football.”

He’s certainly not done yet. Etienne, who’s rushed for 4,038 yards in three years, still sees areas he can improve his game. He wants to be better at special teams, be able to teach other players at any level how to play the running back position, master his craft, improve route running and become a deep threat in the passing game and be a threat with or without the ball.

“Three years ago my only focus was to get here and be on the team,” Etienne said. “Now, just to have the career that I have, looking back on it, when it’s all said and done, I was pretty good.”