Tajh Boyd has done a lot of things as the starting quarterback for Clemson the past two seasons.
He guided the Tigers to their first ACC championship in 20 years in 2011 and followed that with a 10-win season and a Chick-fil-A Bowl victory against LSU last year. He also has thrown for more than 8,000 yards in his career and could finish as the school’s all-time leader in that category.
This spring, though, he has added a new wrinkle. With coach Dabo Swinney having other contractual obligations, Boyd stepped in and joined athletics director Dan Radakovich and basketball coach Brad Brownell at the IPTAY Club’s annual Prowl and Growl at Columbia’s EdVenture Museum on Thursday night in Columbia.
Several hundred Clemson fans had an opportunity to get up close and personal with the Tigers’ signal-caller. Even though Boyd does several different speaking engagements throughout the year, this was the first-time he’s been able to interact with fans in this capacity.
“Anytime I can come out and express my love and show my support for Clemson University in general, I’m going to do it,” Boyd said. “I don’t know exactly what this is but I understand it’s like one big tailgate. I’m excited to interact with some of the fans. This is a good opportunity to see what’s on the fans’ minds and to see if I can answer their questions.”
One of the things he knew would be a hot topic of conversation is Tigers’ four-game losing streak against South Carolina. Being a few miles from the USC campus and Williams-Brice Stadium, Boyd understood he was going to be in the firing line of questions on the topic.
He wants people to understand the losing steak is something that eats at him more than any other in his athletics career. He has started the past two years against the Gamecocks and played in 2010 and his numbers are a far cry from what has become expected of him. In those three games, Boyd has thrown for 339 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions on 32-of-71 passing. He has a negative 15 yards rushing on 36 carries.
“I can’t leave Clemson with that as my legacy,” Boyd said. “It’s always on my mind. It’s one of the biggest rivalry’s in the country and it’s been disappointing that we haven’t had a chance to get it done yet. We have to change that this year.”
Boyd has been mentioned as a dark-horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy, and he feels the numbers he posted last year should make him a contender. He was 287-for-427 for 3,896 yards with 36 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He added another 514 yards on the ground with 10 rushing touchdowns.
His numbers were comparable to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. Manziel threw for 3.706 yards and had 26 touchdowns with nine interceptions. The biggest difference came on the ground, where Manziel ran for 1,409 yards and 21 scores.
Boyd knows his success for individual awards depends on the type of season the Tigers have.
“It’s exciting and an honor to be mentioned,” Boyd said. “But the way I look at it, all that stuff comes with the team’s success. It’s to the point now where we feel like we have an opportunity to have a special season. We understand it starts in the offseason and starts this summer. If it happens, I definitely want to win it. I don’t want to just get an invite (to New York). Hopefully, everything falls in place but we all understand we have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
Boyd also believes the Palmetto State has another potential Heisman candidate in South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The junior is coming off of a sophomore campaign in which he registered 13 sacks — 4.5 came against Boyd and the Tigers in November — and he had the defining moment in college football with his hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl.
Several prognosticators believe Clowney will be the No. 1 pick in next April’s NFL draft.
“He’s as good as advertised and worthy of being projected as the No. 1 pick next year,” Boyd said. “He’s a talent. You really can’t take anything away from the guy. He’s a great player and solid competitor. It’s always fun playing against him.”
The two are friendly off the field. They talk a number of times throughout the year and wish each other the best with the lone exception being that one Saturday in November. Boyd also is friends with other Gamecock players, including Bruce Ellington.
“I’m not going to say we’re best friends but we do know each other and we talk,” Boyd said of Clowney. “He’s a good dude. We have mutual respect for each other and that’s the way it should be.”