Tack up the posters: Clemson's Spiller on the move

BY foxsports • October 28, 2009

After the Tigers' 2-3 start, many of them were probably rolled up and put into storage.

Time to take the rubber bands off and tack that life-sized Spiller back on the wall. The speedy senior could still make a run at the Heisman, especially in a season when it's been hard to find a front-runner.

Spiller set a school record with 310 all-purpose yards in the Tigers 40-37 overtime victory at No. 18 Miami last week. Included was Spiller's third kickoff return TD this season and his 18th and 19th career scores of 50 yards or more.

"If you're a competitor and you love the game the way I love it, you should go out there and prove you are the best guy in the country," Spiller said. "That's kind of what I do and try to help my teams win games."

With Spiller out front, the Tigers (4-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won two straight over Wake Forest and the Hurricanes to put themselves in control of the ACC's Atlantic Division. Spiller's performances have become impossible to ignore.

He rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns, including a 66-yard romp, in a 38-3 win over the Demon Deacons. His showcase game at Miami featured a 90-yard kickoff return TD right before halftime and a 56-yard scoring catch where he blew by a Hurricanes defender.

If Spiller "doesn't play another snap, this guy should be in New York to me," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. called Spiller "the top guy for the Heisman right now," during an online chat Wednesday.

There's a long way to go, Spiller cautions, before he boards a flight to New York for the Heisman ceremony. And he's not about to stump for votes over Florida's Tim Tebow, Texas' Colt McCoy, Alabama's Mark Ingram and Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen.

"The only thing I can control is how my team's playing," Spiller said. "At the end, we'll be where we want to be and individual awards will come to everyone on this team that it's supposed to come to."

Spiller's success is no surprise. He's had the look for a superstar since his high school days in Florida.

Spiller's coach at Union County High, Buddy Nobles, watched Spiller grow from a Pop Warner speedster to a player who used intelligence and instinct to succeed. Long before Clemson teammate James Davis dubbed Spiller "Lightning," Nobles called him "C.J. Thriller."

Spiller spurned his home state's traditional powers of Florida, Florida State and Miami to sign with Clemson in 2006.

An All-American sprinter in track, Spiller was a likely first-round NFL draft choice after last season, when he again did the unexpected, by returning to Clemson for his senior year. Even his mother advised him to turn pro.

This summer the athletic department sent out the life-size posters of the 5-foot-11 star, modeled after a similar promotion for Clemson defensive lineman William "The Refrigerator" Perry in 1984 and mailed them to all Heisman voters, including past winners Tebow and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford.

Florida coach Urban Meyer recruited Spiller, who lived in Lake Butler, Fla., near the Gator campus, and grew to admire the humble young man - Spiller writes "VCC" on his game day eyeblack to honor his Victory Christian Church - with the amazing talent.

"C.J. and I were very close," Meyer said. "If I'm the owner of an NFL team, that guy's going to be on my team because that's how good I think he is."

Spiller started fast this season, even if Clemson didn't, taking the year's opening kickoff against Middle Tennessee back for a 96-yard touchdown. He hasn't let up since with at least one 60-yard gain in all seven games.

Still, Spiller's return to Clemson appeared a mistake three weeks back after a 24-21 loss to Maryland - Spiller had a 92-yard kickoff return score in that one where he lost a shoe on the way to the end zone - left the Tigers reeling.

Two games later, things are looking up in Death Valley.

Spiller broke the ACC mark for all-purpose yardage this fall and became the league's first player to surpass 6,000 yards. With just 127 all-purpose yards a game the rest of the season - he's averaged 208 so far - Spiller will join DeAngelo Williams of Memphis (7,573), Ricky Williams of Texas (7,206) and Napoleon McCallum of Navy (7,172) with more than 7,000.

Now about that Heisman?

"It'd mean a lot to go (to New York) and represent this whole team, this university, this town, everyone involved," Spiller said. "It's a team trophy, it just happens to go to an individual."


share story