Clemson's first practice (copy)

Former Clemson running back C.J. Fuller. File/Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier

WINSTON SALEM, N.C. — Adam Choice found himself fighting back tears. 

Travis Etienne was thinking about all of the memories, about all of the times he was grateful to have been helped on the football field.

Jalen Williams thought about his freshman-year roommate at Clemson, and Tony Elliott become emotional.

Just about everyone on Clemson’s football team had a  story to tell or memory to cherish when the Tigers met earlier this week and addressed the sudden and tragic death of former Clemson running back C.J. Fuller. He died Wednesday at the age of 22.

And so — for the past four days — members of the Clemson football team have grieved. They have laughed and they have cried and they have bonded together to lift each other up in a time of tragedy. Sunday, they will attend a funeral to celebrate Fuller’s life — just one day after the No. 4 Tigers clobbered Wake Forest in fitting fashion: dominance by the run game. 

Saturday, several of them shared just what these past four days have been like.

“It’s a tough week,” said Elliott, the Clemson co-offensive coordinator who also was Fuller’s running backs coach. “For those who know me, they know how I feel about my guys. They’re like my sons. When I got up to address the team, I told them that.

“That’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is to kiss one of my sons goodbye. My heart goes out to his family. We’re going to celebrate his life.” 

Indeed, Fuller had plenty of fans in his teammates and coaches, who described him as the ultimate companion who would do anything for his teammates and anything for his friends. 

Choice called him a "brother" — the two of them having come to Clemson together in 2014. 

Etienne described him as a mentor — an upperclassman who was willing to do anything he could to teach Etienne the ropes of pass protection and Clemson’s offensive schemes. 

Clemson freshman running back Lyn-J Dixon did not know him well, but said he always seemed like a kind spirit when Dixon would visit Clemson as a recruit. 

And Clemson coach Dabo Swinney admired the faith he said he saw in Fuller.

“None of us know — the one certainty is that we’re all going to have our day,” Swinney said. “None of us know when that time is, (but) I have peace in knowing that C.J. had a great relationship with the Lord and I know that he is at peace.”

To honor Fuller, the Tigers made a commitment to each other that they would play their best game of the season for him Saturday, and Clemson’s running backs in particular were unstoppable, with Etienne, Choice and Feaster combining for 458 yards.

Fuller, who was arrested on an armed robbery charge with former Clemson safety Jadar Johnson and former Duke football player Quaven Ferguson in the spring, was a running back at Clemson from 2014-17. He decided to transfer following the 2017 season.

“C.J. was smiling on us,” Swinney said Saturday. “I can’t help but think C.J. was smiling on that to see his guys performing like that.” 

The Tigers said they will continue to honor Fuller by helping his family in any way they can and by playing every game in his memory. 

“These guys are all young and growing up is a tough thing and dealing with death for most of them is a new thing,” said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. “A parent should never have to bury their own child. What a horrific thing and what a tragedy.”

Follow Grace Raynor on Twitter @gmraynor

Grace is the Post and Courier's Clemson reporter. She graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in journalism.

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