This was already going to be an important season for Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell.
The goal for Terrell has always been to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft. As a junior, Terrell is eligible to turn pro after this season.
But a life-changing event that occurred over the summer has Terrell playing with a different sense of urgency entering 2019. In his own words, Terrell describes it as “a big year.”
Terrell’s son — Aundell Terrell III — was born June 9, and his arrival immediately changed Terrell’s outlook on life.
“It actually motivated me in all types of ways,” Terrell said. “I feel like I have a lot of responsibility now. Not saying that I didn’t before, but now it’s just given me an extra boost of energy to go out there and do what I do best.”
What Terrell does best is lock down opposing receivers.
The Georgia native has made big play after big play throughout his time at Clemson, with none being picker than his pick-six in last year’s national title game against Alabama.
He is going from being a piece of Clemson’s defense last year to perhaps the centerpiece of the unit this year, and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney believes Terrell is ready.
“He’s played two seasons of football and played high level ball. Day in and day out he goes against elite players. He’s played in big games and made big plays,” Swinney said. “Just confident. He’s put in a lot of work. He’s in a great place physically. He really understands the game. He’s a guy that can take a guy away, for sure.”
Terrell has a chance to be a first-round pick this season, particularly if he can improve his consistency.
The Draft Network has Terrell as the No. 3 prospect in the ACC entering 2019, and with a strong season he could cement his place as a first-rounder.
“My mindset is really just dominate everything and love what I do. I don’t want to rush the moment. I want to go through everything and be a positive influence to the team,” Terrell said. “I know what’s at stake.”
There’s even more at stake now. Terrell’s son isn’t living with him, but he will attend some Clemson games this season.
Terrell hopes to put on a show for his child and earn some recognition along the way.
“I feel like I’m in competition for the Jim Thorpe Award (given to the top DB in college football), first-team All-ACC, and of course getting back to the ACC championship and go to the playoff,” Terrell said. “I have a lot of confidence going against the receivers I go against every day. I know I’m getting my best work in practice, and I feel like it’s a lot of other good receivers out here that I compete against. But being able to compete against great receivers every day in practice always has me ready for the games.”