Clemson retires C.J. Spiller's No. 28
Spiller was last year's ACC player of the year while setting 32 school records, and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney made sure it didn't take long to permanently honor those achievements.
"It's a great honor. It's a humbling experience," said Spiller, who joins Banks McFadden (No. 66) from the late 1930s and quarterback Steve Fuller (No. 4) from the late 1970s as the only football players with their numbers retired.
"It feels good. I feel like I've been away from home for a long time," Spiller said. "It makes me feel good to see all the support and love I have here."
The cheers and chants never stopped each time "Lightning" showed himself to Clemson fans.
Spiller, carrying 4-year-old daughter Shania in his arms and grinning broadly, led the team on its "Tiger Walk" through the parking lot to Memorial Stadium. Two hours later, Spiller joined the team for its traditional run past Howard's Rock and down the hill to start the game.
Spiller leaned down to put both hands on the rock, then hugged Swinney before jogging onto the field.
The highlight came at halftime when Spiller was honored with his framed No. 28 jersey as the fans stood, cheered and screamed "C-J!" Spiller waved his hands in thanks, then donated $100,000 to his former school -- he signed a five-year contract with Buffalo worth up to $37 million.
Spiller got something to cheer about, too, in Clemson's 31-7 victory over the Terps.
Spiller had the chance to turn pro after his junior season, but chose to come back for one more year with the Tigers. He gained 1,212 yards with 12 TDs rushing, and also caught 36 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns. Spiller finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting and was the only player in the country last season with a touchdown in every game he played.
"I wish I could slip him in a uniform," Swinney said this week.
Spiller did his part to urge on the Tigers. He talked to the players Friday night and emphasized to tailbacks Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper they have to keep working hard to get the Tigers moving again.
Spiller's words seemed to have an impact, too. Ellington had an 87-yard kickoff return touchdown against Maryland, the Tigers' first since Spiller's college career ended last year.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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