Lawrence, Etienne Send-off Doesn't Feel Right

Clemson greats Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne deserve to run down the Hill in front of 80,000-plus inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday, but they won't, and there's no one to blame for that.
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Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne deserve to run down the Hill in front of 80,000-plus inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday. 

The Clemson backfield duo, arguably one of the most talented in college football history, will instead play their farewell home game in front of a sparse, pandemic-lessened crowd that will undoubtedly cheer hard for those two Tigers at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. 

But it won't be the same before the Pitt game. It won't be the proper way to send off two of the most prolific players in Clemson history. That's not their fault. That's certainly not Clemson's fault nor do the fans share the blame. 

It's just another casualty of the effects of COVID-19 and how it's changed every sport in the world over the last eight months. At least there will be people in the stands when the Tigers take the field. At least there will be a pregame ceremony to honor seniors paired with Military Appreciation Day. 

Everyone in attendance will be thankful for that. Neither Lawrence or Etienne will be anything more than appreciative of whatever response they get on Senior Day, even though Lawrence isn't technically a senior. 

"It's hard to anticipate kind of how I feel," Lawrence said. "I know it's gonna be a lot of emotions. I'm graduating in December, my senior night and just all the guys here that have been so much to me and my teammates my coaches, fans in this place in general. It's really changed my life in here. I've been so fortunate to be in a place like Clemson so there's gonna be a lot of emotions."

This will be their swan song in Death Valley. All college football players are getting a year of eligibility back, but Lawrence, who's set to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, won't use it. Etienne, who already came back for his senior season when he could've turned pro after last season, will also be a likely first-round selection and leave as Clemson's and the ACC's all-time leading rusher. 

Their impact on the field is immense. They won a national title together in 2018 and have helped Clemson make the College Football Playoff every season they've been in Tiger Town. 

Off the field, they've brought a ton of positive attention to the university, which is hard to measure in dollars. Lawrence has been a true ambassador of the game. He helped push along the fight for social justice in the community and raised awareness of the cause. Lawrence fought hard to make this season happen and had an impact in simply getting to this point.

Etienne has been an exemplary student-athlete, spurring the NFL for a chance to get his degree and complete a process he promised his mom he would take care of before turning pro. 

Both are as humble as any players Clemson's had in recent years. They don't crave attention. They don't demand it or do anything negative to get it. They simply love playing college football and have never been in a hurry to move on to what's next. 

However, that time has come, and while they still have a chance at a sixth consecutive ACC title, no one will ever see them play another game in Death Valley after Saturday. That doesn't mean they won't return one day to be honored, and they'll very likely see their names hung among the Ring of Honor inside the stadium at some point. 

That is not something that's taken lightly at Clemson, just like their careers.