The future is now for freshman running back Phil Mafah.
With the Tigers' running back room overflowing with talent heading into the season, Mafah was essentially the odd man out. It appeared as if he was destined for a redshirt season, not due to a lack of talent, just due to there being only one ball and so many touches to go around.
However, after the exit of Lyn-J Dixon from the program and a knee injury to Will Shipley, Mafah was forced into action on Saturday. The freshman running back did not disappoint in his debut in front of a raucous Death Valley environment.
"I'd say it was pretty crazy," Mafah said. "But you know when you get locked into the game, the outside noise you're not really distracted by that. You just really focused on winning."
Mafah finished the night with eight carries for 58 yards, including a dazzling 28-yard burst early in the second quarter.
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Uiagalelei hit Shipley in stride. Shipley dropped the ball. And to those watching the game, it appeared that was the moment. That was the, "Oh well. Here we go again" moment.
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Coming into fall camp, Mafah wasn't thinking about a redshirt, he just wanted to compete. However, after learning of the plan to redshirt him, he quickly embraced the idea, determined to make the best of the situation.
"(Competing) was definitely my mindset during fall camp," Mafah said. "Just do the best I can and try to compete. I just talked to some of the other players and they told me it's (redshirt) not bad. So I embraced that. Then really everything that kept me like consoled is really just praying and just trusting that God's timing when I need to play, I'll play."
At the practice following the Tigers' loss to NC State, head coach Dabo Swinney told the freshman to be ready. While no player is ever happy to see a teammate injured, Mafah had been preparing all season for his opportunity.
"When Will got hurt that wasn't a good event for me," Mafah said. "But I just knew if that happened, like I would probably have to step up. So, you know, just that Monday after the North Carolina State game, he just came up to me just said to be ready."
Going forward the Clemson offense is going to have to rely on Mafah more and after his performance on Saturday night, the freshman back is ready to contribute in any way he's asked.
"It gives me confidence, knowing that I can contribute to the team," Mafah said. "But you know, I'm always just trying to stay humble and just do what I can this year to help the team the best way I can. But definitely makes me confident, you know, knowing that the work I put in, was able to be shown a bit on Saturday."
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