Culture of encouragement

D.J. Howard

CLEMSON - The culture of encouragement that was present when C.J. Spiller and James Davis were around is alive and well in the Clemson running back room.

With the graduation of Roderick McDowell, not a single Clemson running back was a teammate of Thunder or Lightning, but every back on the Tigers' current roster is a proponent of everyone else.

"When it's your opportunity to make plays, get out there and make plays," D.J. Howard said. "I'm working behind and encouraging. I want Zac [Brooks] to be the starter. I'm encouraging him. Same with C.J. [Davidson] and the same way they encourage me.

"So, at the end of the day, whoever the starter is, it's the best decision. Whether it's me or not, I'm happy, because I know the coaches made the best decision."

Don't get him wrong, Howard does want to be the No. 1 running back during his senior year.

"But, if I'm not the guy, I'm cool with it, because I just got beat. It's a simple fact, I got beat out," he said. "But I'm not going to hang my head on it, because I got beat out. I'm going to keep working to be the best that I can be."

Entering last season, Howard had 76 carries for 368 yards and three touchdowns. As a redshirt junior, he rushed 57 times for 213 yards and two scores.

"Coming up, I had to battle through a lot of injuries," Howard said, when reflecting on his career. "But, now, I look back and there's nothing I can do about it, but just keep working and staying positive. That's what I'm doing now.

"I've gotten healthy, staying in the weight room to prevent injuries, staying positive and keeping myself encouraged. I'm coming with a great attitude every day. Those are my biggest concerns."

Regardless of his role on the field this season, the senior from Lincoln, Alabama is embracing his job away from it.

While speaking with CUTigers during spring practice, Howard shared some a few details of a conversation he had with the other running backs.

"I was like, ‘I ain't going to lie to y'all boys. I'm nervous, because this time next year, I don't know where I'm going to be at. Y'all boys know where y'all are going to be. Y'all are going to be working and grinding.

"'I want y'all boys to keep that in mind, keep on grinding while you can, don't wait ‘til your senior year to be the best you can. Do it now. Once senior year gets here, you don't have a redo…do it now.'"

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