D.J. Reader had just one tackle Saturday in Clemson’s 58-0 victory against Miami, but he was more than happy with that.
“It felt great,” Reader said. “It blew my mind to finally get out there on the field, and no better place than Dolphin Stadium.”
Until Saturday, many Clemson fans wondered if they’d ever see Reader in action again. The senior defensive tackle left the team to deal with personal issues on Aug. 25 and was replaced along the defensive front by sophomore Scott Pagano and Christian Wilkins.
He rejoined the team Monday, and Tuesday coach Dabo Swinney said he didn’t know if Reader would play “this week or next.”
His chance came sooner.
“I felt great and had a great week of practice,” Reader said. “I knew earlier in the week coach Swinney said I probably wouldn’t play that much, but I had the mindset that I wanted to play and prove to him that I was in shape. I think I made a statement today.”
Reader was being counted on to be one of the team’s leaders this season, and he represented the team at the Atlantic Coast Conference media gathering in August. But by month’s end, he was gone. But his teammates kept in touch.
“Carlos (Watkins) was really helpful; he kept encouraging me every week,” Reader said. “That’s my guy, that’s like my brother right there.”
Apparently Reader has a lot of brothers.
“All the guys really supported me and my decision,” Reader said. “Everybody from Eric (Mac Lain) to (punter Andy) Teasdall. They had their arms wrapped around me.”
And Reader had his arms wrapped around Miami quarterback Malik Rosier on the first play of the fourth quarter, recording his first tackle since 2013.
“I finally felt at home,” Reader said. “It was hard (watching Clemson play), and when you can’t control the outcomes it was tough on me. But I knew those guys would take care of business. And now I can help them.”
Which is good news for defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
“He did great,” Venables said. “I’ve got to watch the tape and all that, but it was sure good to get another big athletic body back in the fold. And he’ll keep getting better as he gets back into shape and gets his quickness back to where it was.”