CLEMSON — Presumably, Clemson’s Senior Day will kick off around noon, or close to it. The sun will not yet have set when the game is over.
WHO: Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2 ACC) at No. 9 Clemson (8-1, 6-1)
WHEN: Thurs. Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Clemson
Quarterback Tajh Boyd and his eight fellow seniors will have completed their final game at Memorial Stadium. But they won’t be done with Death Valley. Not yet.
“I was thinking, maybe we’ll come back after the game, later on that evening, sit back in the stadium and kind of reflect,” Boyd said, looking ahead to the Tigers’ Nov. 23 meeting with The Citadel. “Try to make the most out of it.”
A cerebral fellow, Boyd had the bye week to start realizing the end is near. The end of five years at Clemson, which has granted him ACC Player of the Year honors last fall and an early selection in next May’s NFL Draft.
“I guess all good things come to an end at some point,” Boyd said. “It’s all bittersweet for me; I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play at the next level, looking forward to seeing what life presents.
“But at the same time, being here, at the moment, it’s all you know. It’s kind of one of those deals where it’s like, whoa, what happens from here? It becomes a job. This is your livelihood.”
His coach also caught his breath, knowing Boyd’s classmates, many of whom have graduated already or will do so in December, are contemplating their futures.
“Every year, all the seniors, I meet with those guys twice a week,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “The seniors are always different from everybody else on your team. Always. Just because of their experience and what they’ve been through. They have a big-picture perspective most the other guys don’t have.”
Of the other seniors, offensive lineman Brandon Thomas and linebacker Spencer Shuey have solid prospects of landing in an NFL camp. Opportunities also could beckon for kicker Chandler Catanzaro, offensive lineman Tyler Shatley or running back Roderick McDowell.
Team leaders like fullback Darrell Smith, linebacker Quandon Christian and long snapper Philip Fajgenbaum also will march across Frank Howard Field with their families for the final before The Citadel takes on Clemson.
Then, five weeks of bowl practices and a bowl game. Then … question marks.
“It’s the first time in their life they have no idea what they’re going to be doing next year,” Swinney said. “Think about it: most of these guys, from the time they’ve been a little kid, they know that their life’s been so structured. Next August, I’m in school, I’m at practice, next spring, I’m doing this and that, next summer, I’m lifting and training.
“The reality of I don’t know what I’m going to be doing, I’m going to hope to get a job somewhere, I have no idea where I’m living. Maybe I’m going to the NFL; it’s not like you pick your team. There’s just a lot of unknowns.”
Because it was an intimate recruiting class with the fifth-year seniors — the Dandy Dozen, they were called — the friendships were tighter than normal.
“These guys forge such great bonds and relationships. They’ll be in each other’s weddings. At each other’s child births, and their kids will grow up together, and unfortunately, they’ll be at each other’s funerals,” Swinney said. “That’s what you develop through this game. As it draws near, because pretty much all these guys are graduated or will graduate in December, they all kind of scatter.
“I think it’s a precious time, I really do. I’ve always enjoyed that time with these guys as it kind of gets toward the end. They have a great appreciation for their opportunities they’ve had here, and they all want to finish strong. They all want to leave a great legacy here. They start thinking about that more. They got about 20 workdays left. It’s not a lot.”