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CLEMSON — Week after week, Eric Mac Lain went in front of the media, answered every question with professionalism, even as a college kid, and quickly became the face of Clemson football.

That was 2015, the Tigers’ first trip to the College Football Playoff, and the offensive guard turned that opportunity into the moniker “Mr. Clemson” and eventually a college football analyst job at ACC Network.

It was obvious early on Mac Lain had the chops to become a star. He knew what he was talking about, and he was a great representative of the program.

Clemson’s had several players fill that role since, even at offensive line. It’s a position that doesn’t get the glory of a quarterback or a flashy receiver, but it can produce great spokesmen.

John Simpson, an All-ACC guard in 2019, is a prime example. He represented Clemson at ACC Kickoff last July and grabbed attention with his decision to don a blonde wig, since quarterback Trevor Lawrence didn’t make the trip.

So it’s not unusual for an eccentric, fun-loving big fella to take on a popular role with the media and fans.

Enter Matt Bockhorst.

In case you don’t know, the rising junior left guard is taylormade to become one of the visible faces of Clemson football in 2020.

“He’s going to be the face of a company or governor of a state,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said about Bockhorst this week. “He’s a 4.0 student. He’s brilliant. He’s unbelievable. He’s one of our Paw Journey top ambassadors. He’s just an amazing young person who happens to be a nasty guard.”

And he’s openly ready to become a leader both on and off the field.

Matt Bockhorst (65)

Matt Bockhorst (65)

“That would be an honor,” Bockhorst said. “Seeing all the talented guys and really great guys that have come before me, it would really be special for me to become one of the faces of the team. I never do it for glory. Playing offensive line, there’s not much glory in it, but if I can be looked at by my teammates as a leader and someone who is well respected I’d really love to try to earn that.”



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He’s well on his way. Bockhorst might not be a household name. 

He might be more known for his comment last season about the offensive linemen putting together a calendar swimsuit calendar.

"Everybody loves the fat guys," Bockhorst said. 

The Cincinnati, Ohio, native played in all 15 games last year but only started one. He saw over 400 snaps as a backup in 2019, and played them well, after seeing 178 in 2018. Bockhorst redshirted in 2017, so if you’re not as familiar with his ability, you will be in 2020.

“He can play this game at a high level,” Swinney said. “He’s strong, athletic, flexible. He can do splits. He’s a very unique guy at his position. So committed. He’s one of the best leaders we’ve got and has been. He was a great leader for us last year. He’s got a bright future.”

Bockhorst gets it. He’s built relationships with guards before him, like Simpson, Taylor Hearn and Mac Lain, so the foundation for the offensive line leadership standard is well known.

Bockhorst understands he has big shoes (literally) to fill with Simpson gone, but he’s as ready and committed as anybody to step into that role and give back.

“Now that it is my time, it’s something I have to pay forward to the young guys,” Bockhorst said. “Given that we have a really young offensive line room this spring, coming up this season, it’s on me, (left tackle) Jackson (Carman) and (center) Cade (Stewart) to take those guys under our wings and really elevate the level of the group as a whole. It’s a unique opportunity to fill that spot and hopefully do a good job.”

Bockhorst takes great pride in this opportunity. And he’s not afraid to be vocal. In fact, that greatly fits his personality. He won’t shy away from holding teammates accountable or praising them for great effort. He says it can’t be “fabricated,” though.

One former player who taught him that is defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, who was a strong face of the program and now plays for the Miami Dolphins in the NFL. Those two “butted heads” in practice, but Bockhorst learned valuable lessons from Wilkins: Don’t be afraid to be who you are and use that to influence teammates.

“Some guys aren’t going to be vocal leaders. I’ve always kind of had a loud personality and it’s not something I’m ashamed of,” Bockhorst said. “It’s a place I think I can take hold of on this team and it’s something I’m really excited to do. It’s certainly a new opportunity for me but I’m doing the best I can to fill that void.”