True homecoming: Safety Jayron Kearse one of Clemson's three south Florida natives eager for Orange Bowl
CLEMSON - College football players usually get four tickets each for their family or friends to distribute.
2014 Discover Orange Bowl
Who: No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 7 Ohio State
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
When: Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m.
Records: Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC); Ohio State (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten)
Last year's result: Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 10
It's not uncommon for teammates to orchestrate trades, or even just flat-out offer extras, during the regular season to guys who have additional family interested in the opponent or the particular locale - say, for instance, when Hampton Roads-bred quarterback Tajh Boyd took his Tigers to Virginia on Nov. 2.
However, bowl games are a different beast, especially in the BCS elite group of games. Three Clemson players call the greater Miami area home: junior All-American wide receiver Sammy Watkins, freshman tight end Jordan Leggett and freshman free safety Jayron Kearse.
The 6-4 Kearse, now the starter in place of Travis Blanks - sidelined for the season with a torn ACL - has hit up his buddies in uniform for any spare tickets.
"I have asked some teammates," Kearse said. "Just gotta wait for them to get back with me, because this being the Orange Bowl against Ohio State, it's harder than a regular game."
Kearse is excited for his own person homecoming - he said he hasn't been to his native Fort Myers, Fla., in a month - with the hope to impress his inner circle on a big stage.
"So that's going to be good to have my whole family out there, being able to watch me make a few big plays. That'll be exciting."
At the same time, Kearse insisted he's not focused on the fun off-field advantages of ending up an hour and a half away from his hometown in Clemson's final game of his rookie season.
"Yeah, I am ready to get down there and see my family. But I'm still taking it as a business trip," Kearse said. "Because I'm down there for Ohio State. Seeing my family's just a bonus, something extra.
"I'll get to be home with my family for Christmas. But I'm going there to win the game."
Kearse rose to prominence with his game-changing ability in spot opportunities - he owns three of Clemson's 16 interceptions, and his 47 tackles rank third in the Tigers' secondary. But he's made some rookie mistakes leading to big plays allowed, which has been the weakness of Clemson's defense overall.
"It could be hard, if you don't stay disciplined with your eyes," Kearse said. "Not letting motions get my eyes in the wrong spot. Just got to keep my eyes where they're supposed to be, and I'll be all right."
Clemson has allowed 25 gains of at least 30 yards this year, tied for 70th in the country. Ohio State's one of the nation's most adept offenses at gobbling up big gains, with 37 30-yarders in 13 games.
"Basically, we've got to fly after the ball and not let them get that extra yard after the first contact," Kearse said. "I've just got to give my all every play. Nothing in particular."
The last time Kearse was inside Sun Life Stadium, he was a recruit watching Clemson get beat 70-33 by West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
Two years ago, it's hard to grasp he'll be starting in the same event for the Tigers.
"I've got to treat it like any other game," Kearse said. "I'm a freshman, but at the same time, I'm on the team with juniors and seniors out there to help them leave a legacy here. I'm not going there overwhelmed. I'm just going to go play football."