Deon Cain couldn’t bear to watch last season’s national championship game.
The then-freshman wide receiver should have been with the Clemson football team in Glendale, Arizona, as it competed for the national title against Alabama. Cain didn’t make the trip as he was sent home from the Orange Bowl and suspended for the College Football Playoff because of a violation of team rules.
Instead of watching the game at home, Cain went to dinner with his girlfriend. But after being held out of practices this spring, Cain is as focused on football as he’s ever been.
Speaking with the media this week for the first time since his suspension, Cain didn’t say why he was suspended, but says he has learned from his time served.
“When (Clemson coach Dabo Swinney) told me that I’m not playing in the national championship, that’s what it really was that kind of hit me and made me feel like I really need to step my game up,” Cain said. “I felt like I let my team down bad. So that’s why I’m really just trying to show them that I’m a better person and a better player, so I can really contribute to this offense.”
A five-star recruit out of Tampa, Florida, Cain made an impact for Clemson. In 12 games, Cain caught 34 passes for 582 yards and five touchdowns.
Off the field, however, Cain wasn’t reliable. Before his College Football Playoff suspension, he had already been benched for Clemson’s game at Miami.
Cain says his high school program did not carry the same expectations off the field that Clemson does. He needed to make better decisions, and he had to learn the hard way.
“These coaches and this program have really changed me into the person that I really want to be in the future,” Cain said. “I just had to really just buy in and get all in with the program.”
Despite the suspension, Cain says he never considered leaving Clemson.
“I would never leave this program, because they haven’t done nothing bad to me,” Cain said. “They’ve done a lot of stuff to help me. I just wasn’t mature enough to really see the opportunity that they was giving me.”
Cain caught his first touchdown of the season against Troy, but he only has three catches for 38 yards through two games. Swinney expects more from Cain on the field, but says his receiver has been “awesome” off the field since returning to the team.
“He can be as good a receiver as there is in the country, as good as we’ve had come through here, if he gets his focus where it needs to be,” Swinney said.
Who: S.C. State (0-2) vs. Clemson (2-0)
When: Saturday, Noon
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson
TV: Fox Sports South / Radio: 93.1 FM