Tajh Boyd had made up his mind that he was leaving for the NFL.
The Clemson quarterback had just guided the Tigers to an 11-2 overall record and a come-from-behind victory over No. 8 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He had put together a career year – 3,896 passing yards and 36 touchdowns – earning him ACC Player of the Year honors.
Yet, Boyd knew he and the rest of his Clemson teammates where on to something bigger and better and after some reflection, the 22-year-old Boyd decided to return for his senior season.
The Sentinel spoke with Boyd at the start of spring football practice.
Q: What is your focus going into spring ball?
Tajh Boyd: Just trying to focus every practice on the smallest details. More so the fundamentals of the game. To try and understand every coverage that is thrown at me and taking complete control of the team. … It’s just trying to remain steady and confident in every facet of the game whether its handing the ball off or throwing an intermediate or deep pass, it’s just taking it from there and trying to incorporate your understanding off the offense and taking it to a whole another level. Understand why we ran certain plays, why we ran certain formations against certain coverages. Really, just the small details of the game.
Q: Talk about the Chick-fil-A Bowl win against LSU?
TB: It was a great experience. I felt like for us, it was a stepping stone for this program. It boosted our confidence heading into the offseason. It was one of those deals that helped you realize where you are as a program. We want to be considered amongst the nation’s elite and to end the season on a game like that and to start off this season with a team like Georgia. It’s all about finishing strong and competing and just showing what type of team you are to the country. What type of work ethic you have so I think for us, it was just one big stepping stone and something that helps us heading into this season.
Q: How important is it to start the season off right when you open up against a team like Georgia?
TB: It’s really important. We feel this way in the program that we have a national championship aspirations. We want to be that great team that we know we are capable of being. Now, we have to put everything together. I’m sure Georgia feels the same way so it’s going to be a very competitive game. It’s going to be a huge game in how the season can go for both teams. We’ve got to come out with a competitive edge. Coach [Dabo] Swinney does a great job of making us understand that we can’t really miss a day. You can’t let a day slip by you because all of those days matter if we want to be the type of team that has the type of season we want to have.
Q: Why return to Clemson for your senior season?
TB: I thought I was going to leave for the NFL and forgo my senior season after the LSU game. I had set a sort of guideline before the game happened and I felt like I had accomplished that during the course of the game and I felt like I had gotten the attention of a lot of people. In my mind, I was going to go ahead and leave, but I sat down that week and I had to put a lot of things in perspective. I had to think about a lot of things and I felt like there were some things that I would love to see happen for this program that I would love help to see through so for me it was all about some things I wanted to accomplish individually and just take it from there. Just to have one more opportunity to try and have a perfect season was on my mind. That’s the goal right now.
Q: How heavily did you lean on family and friends when you were making that decision?
TB: Honestly, I had some input from different people, but at the same time, I wanted to make this decision on my own. On my own terms where I sat down and evaluated what was the most important thing for me. For me, it’s team right now. I’m happy with my decision, I feel like we have the opportunity to have a special season and we have some special players on this team, and I feel like you only get so many years of college football and this is a great game. There aren’t too many places better than Clemson. I just want to enjoy it one more year.
TB: I might look at it and pay attention to what is being said and things of that nature, but for me it’s all about just getting ready for the upcoming season. All that stuff will happen in due time. The time right now, I want to focus on making this the best team possible by being the best quarterback possible. For me, it’s all about the focus on now and the future of this program.
Q: What does being mentioned as a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate mean to you?
TB: Even as a kid, that’s what you shoot for, you shoot for individual goals like that. I think it’s important, but at the same time, none of that stuff will happen if you aren’t successful as a program and as a team. Sure, it would be nice to go out there and win an award or invited to an award like that … and I feel like I had opportunities to come close to it …. I think this year is time to put everything together and finish strong in all of those categories. Is it a goal of mine? Most definitely, but at the same time it’s not so important that its bigger than the team.
Q: How important is it to be a leader and to keep the program moving in the right direction even after you are gone?
TB: It’s really big. You want to leave your legacy. You want to leave your footprint on the university. Whenever you are involved with a program like this, you want to see them continue to make improvements, to make strides. And just become that program that you know it can become.
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