If a book were ever written chronicling former Clemson kicker David Treadwell's life, there would be one major problem. Would it be classified as fiction, or non-fiction?
Treadwell, a 1997 enshrinee in the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame, readily admits that he has lived a life filled with experiences far beyond most people's expectations.
"Playing football at Clemson was one of the major highlights of my life," said Treadwell. "It gave me an early start on my life, both as an athlete and as a person. I owe so much to Clemson."
The saga begins when Treadwell, who was all-city in soccer three times at Boiles High School in Jacksonville, Florida, decided to attend Clemson and try out for the football team as a walk-on.
"I played soccer in high school. I wanted to go to a school with an engineering program," said Treadwell. "I narrowed it down to Alabama, Auburn and Clemson, but my dad loved Bear Bryant. When I was coming out of high school, Bear had just stepped down at Alabama and then died shortly thereafter. Danny Ford was one of Bear's boys and Clemson was willing to give me the opportunity to walk on."
After being redshirted his first year, and sitting on the bench his second year, Treadwell began to kick his way into Clemson football lore with a game-winning kick to beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in the opening game of the 1985 season. As most Clemson fans know, that would only be the tip of the iceberg.
Treadwell laughed as he recalled how he initially got his chance.
"There were four guys competing for the kicking job that year. One was a scholarship guy and the other three, including me, were walk-ons. My dad came up with this strategy for me. He told me to stand as close to Coach Ford possible, even next to him, if I could."
"There was a situation that called for a field goal in the first half and Coach Ford turns around starts yelling for a kicker. I was standing right there, so Coach Ford throws me out on the field and tells me to kick the field goal. I don't know if he had already decided on me to be the kicker, but if he didn’t, it sure makes for a great story."
It would only get better during Treadwell's junior and senior years as his last-second boots won the Georgia game both in 1986 and 1987.
"Those are still some of my favorite memories in my whole life," said Treadwell. “Both games were knockdown, drag out affairs. When the opportunity came up, Coach asked, 'Can you make it' Of course, I said, 'Yes.' The first one was in Athens. All I really heard was a dull roar from the crowd. I was in that zone that kickers need to get into. When I made it, the entire bench just exploded and ran out on the field.”
“I was on the bottom of the pile. I just kept telling myself to breathe. I got hit more in that pile than I did in all my other days in football put together."
Six times, Treadwell made field goals in the final three minutes that either won or tied games for Clemson. He was fifth in the nation in 1987 with 1.8 field goals per game. During his Clemson career he connected on 47 of 66 field goals and was 92-for-93 on extra points. He is the fourth all-time leading scorer in Tigers history.
At one point, he made 63 extra points in a row, the third longest streak in Clemson history.
He also was a consensus All-American in 1987, the only consensus All-American kicker in Clemson history. No slouch in the classroom, the former Tiger also earned Academic All-ACC honors that season.
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Treadwell smiles as he thinks back on his Clemson days, saying, "I was really impressed when I visited Clemson. After growing up in flat Florida, the mountains were really something to see and to look down on the stadium that is cut into the hill. On game day, what a thrill it is when you run down that hill and everybody is standing up cheering for you.”
“That run down the hill still gives me chills down the back of the neck as we're sitting here talking about it."
Going to Clemson as a walk-on taught Treadwell the value of hard work and to never give up the hope of reaching his goals, even when he failed in his first tryout with the Denver Broncos in 1988. He then signed with the Phoenix Cardinals, but was traded before even getting to their training camp in 1989. It was during this struggling time in his life that Treadwell came to value the relationship that he built with Ford.
"When you're in college, he rides you pretty hard, but I still have a great deal of respect for him," Treadwell said. "He became almost like a father figure when I was trying to make it in the NFL. He would call and encourage me not to give up. He was always urging me to save my money."
"I felt after my first tryout in Denver back in 1988, that I could make it in the NFL. I actually benefited from the year out of football. I worked out, getting bigger and stronger. I elected to sign with Phoenix, as I thought I could win the job. However, Dan Reeves must have seen something in me that he liked the summer before, because he traded to get me back. He gave me the opportunity to go to camp and win the job.”
“I was an accurate kicker. Coach Reeves wants his offense to at least put some type of points on the board when they get the ball. He still runs his offense that way down in Atlanta."
Serving as the Broncos kicker from 1989-92, Treadwell made 99 of 127 field goals tries (78%) during his four years in the Mile High City. With the New York Giants from 1993-94, he made 36 of 48 for 75%. An accurate kicker, the former Tiger made 182 of 188 extra point tries during his six-year NFL career. He was selected to the Pro Bowl following his rookie season and also to the All-Rookie Team.
"When they moved the kickoffs back to the 30-yard line, that hurt me," said Treadwell. "Those extra five yards were too much for me. I couldn't get the kickoffs as deep as the coaches wanted. I was still accurate, but a team couldn’t afford to carry two kickers and a punter. That's what put me out of pro football."
While some former players are bitter when their careers are over, Treadwell isn’t. "Everything happens for a reason. I look at it as I got to play football six years longer than I ever thought I would. My career was almost like a Cinderella story. It gave me a tremendous start on my life.
While he was at Clemson, Treadwell earned a degree in electrical engineering, but as he wasn't able to work as a engineer, due to the fact that he was playing pro football. It was during this time that he decided that he wanted to take his post-football career in a different direction.
"When I was playing football, I realized that I was falling behind in the engineering field as I wasn't able to practice my craft. I contemplated furthering my education by going after an MBA," explained the former kicker. "Instead, I started in the law program at UD (University of Denver) and went year-round. I really loaded up on courses in the spring and eased off during the season. It took me four-and-a-half to five years to get my degree by going part-time."
After earning his law degree, he practiced law for two years, but then a new avenue opened up to him. As a former Bronco, he worked on the campaign for their new stadium, participating in the debates on television and radio. His work was being noticed.
"The flagship station for the Broncos called and asked me to do a sports talk show from two to six in the afternoons," said Treadwell.
"I did that for two years. I've been working for television station FOX 31, KDVR, as their sports anchor. With having four major pro teams in town, plus covering the University of Denver and Colorado, it keeps me busy. I still keep my law degree active, because in this business, you never know when they might decide to make a change. I want to keep my options open."
Even though he is living halfway across the country from Clemson, Tiger blood still runs through his veins.
"Clemson is by far, the most beautiful setting in the country from which to watch a football game. The people of Clemson should be proud of it," Treadwell stated.
"I went there initially just as a student. I had a very special experience. The athletic department, from top to bottom, is excellent in all aspects. Even if you don't play any sports, a person can go to Clemson and get a quality education."