In today’s college football landscape players want to come to a campus and be handed the starting job right away. We have seen the number of transfers rise over the last decade, especially at the offensive skill positions, because certain players become unhappy with their lack of playing time. However, there are some players that stick it out and stay with their school even if they are in an undesirable situation. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about these players is Reggie Merriweather, a Clemson running back for Tommy Bowden from 2003-2006. Merriweather did not play much in 2003, but in 2004 he had 136 carries and 11 touchdowns. Most people remember him being a bulldozer disguised as a running back, plowing over defenders on his way to becoming a fan favorite. In 2005 he split carries with then-freshman James Davis but still finished the year with 149 carries and 715 yards, including the game-winning touchdown against Maryland. However, 2006 was a very testing year for Merriweather because in comes C.J. Spiller to form “Thunder and Lightning” with James Davis, which became arguably the most formidable running back duo in the country (Felix Jones and Darren McFadden were also on the top of this list). It was Merriweather’s senior season and he lost his job to a true freshman and a true sophomore, but he did not complain about his playing time. He only received 30 carries that season, but every time he stepped on the field the crowd gave him a standing ovation. The Clemson faithful appreciated how he handled this difficult situation and his leadership showed by how he responded to adversity. Merriweather is one of the most beloved Clemson Tigers of all-time, not because of his stats but because of his character, and it is stories like this one that make the game of college football so great.
Current Clemson running back Roderick McDowell dealt with a similar playing time issue through the first three years of his career. In 2010 he was behind Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper on the depth chart therefore he only had 32 carries on the year. In 2011 he might have thought that he would gain more playing time with the departure of Harper, but a freshman named Mike Bellamy came in and took the carries that would have been his. D.J. Howard also received more carries, which meant that McDowell only ended up with 14 carries for the entire season. Bellamy has since been kicked off the team and is bouncing around different schools now. In 2012, McDowell’s junior season, he finally got his due when he became the main backup to Ellington. That year he carried the ball 83 times for 450 yards and five touchdowns. He surprised a lot of Clemson fans with just how good of a running back he actually was. He had the vision, the speed, and ability to block. It was good to see a guy like that, who waited his turn, finally get some significant playing time in meaningful games.
Now in his senior campaign, Hot Rod McDowell is the feature back and has gained 243 yards on 44 carries through three games. His coming out party happened in Week 1 of the season against then-ranked No. 5 Georgia. He tallied 132 yards on 22 carries to help the Tigers to a three point win at home. In a game where everyone came in talking about UGA’s Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall in the backfield, McDowell decided that he was going to show the world that waiting your turn and sticking with the system has paid off. Midway through the fourth quarter, McDowell busted a run outside and froze a Bulldog defender with an Eddie Lacy-type spin move, which led to a big 36-yard gain and set Clemson up with a first and goal. The Tigers would score a touchdown a few plays later to seal the win.
People thought just because he did not play much in previous years meant that he was not very good. Those people could not be more wrong as McDowell was behind some great running backs, but instead of transferring, he stuck with it, worked hard and is now seeing dividends on the field. You can’t help but root for a guy like Roderick McDowell, as he represents everything that is right about Clemson.
Travis Patterson, Writer For ACC Rantsports.com. Follow on Twitter @tpat20 https://twitter.com/tpat20