SPARTANBURG - C.J. Spiller has always displayed the ability to stir emotions with his football prowess, but he's proving equally adept in a different kind of arena.
Clemson's senior running back had the full attention of a packed house at the First Baptist Church of Spartanburg's student appreciation night earlier this month.
Roughly 1,000 turned out to watch Spiller take the stage at The Hangar and give a short speech that revolved around living in a positive and humble manner.
He spoke about taking responsibility for one's actions, such as his decision to go against his mother's wishes and return for his senior year rather than enter the NFL draft.
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"Sometimes you have to go against the grain in making adult decisions, even when it's your own mother," Spiller said. "You can't always rely on mom to make decisions. At some point, you've got to grow up and become a man."
Spiller acknowledged after speaking at the same function last year that it was his first time sharing his faith in front of such a large crowd. Now that his profile has risen dramatically, he's spoken to countless youth and church groups.
"Anytime I can go somewhere and speak to young kids or any audience about the Lord, that's my main focus," Spiller said. "Hopefully my little bit of words touched on one heart. If you're able to go out and speak and change people's lives, I encourage anyone to do that.
"At the end of the day, that's the main thing that matters. One day football will be over and it will come down to how you project yourself off the field. I try to do a great job, although I'm far from perfect, but it was great to see so many young people out tonight to hear the message."
Spiller is attempting to get across another message by continuing to show off on the field for Heisman voters. Two recent, highly successful nationally televised performances in victories over Miami and Florida State, where he set a school record with 312 all-purpose yards, have his campaign gaining momentum.
"All the talk isn't wearing on me," Spiller said, the words "Heisman candidate" splashing across a large video screen that played his highlights at the event. "The main thing I worry about is getting to the ACC championship game, and I think everything else will take care of itself."
Spiller declined to speculate whether his late season surge could be enough to win the coveted award.
"I'm not sure. I'm not a voter," Spiller said. "I just go out and try to help my team win games, and all the other stuff isn't up to me."
What he does have a hand in is the chance to lead Clemson to its first ACC title since 1991, something that factored greatly in his decision to come back for his senior season. If the Tigers beats Virginia today, they will play in the title game.
"I knew we had a great team coming back, and if we just competed hard and added a couple of new pieces to the puzzle, we could have a great season," Spiller said. "Now we really control our own destiny and can't get caught looking ahead or listening to what people are saying. We just have to focus on the next team."