Keeping The Faith: How Local Walk On Will Brown Became Starter For Clemson

CLEMSON -- Keep the faith.

It’s what Clemson wide receiver Will Brown’s grandfather, Johnny Babb, always used to say.

“That has been very near and dear to my heart,” Brown said. “Keep the faith and never give up. Never fold.”

Babb told his grandson to keep faith that he would someday play a bigger role for Clemson’s football team. Brown was a walk-on from Boiling Springs High School, an undersized (5-foot-8) overachiever whose only two college scholarship offers came from local Division II schools Limestone College and North Greenville University.

Brown was going to Clemson, even if it meant the end of his football career. It was not. He walked on to the team and eventually was given a scholarship as a fourth-year junior with 31 career snaps and one catch.

Now, as a graduate student working on his master’s degree, he is Clemson’s starter as a punt returner. And when he’s out there waiting for a kick, his eyes to the sky and most often just motioning for a fair catch, it’s almost like he’s waving to his grandfather.

Babb, a Wofford College graduate from Inman, caught the COVID coronavirus and died Jan. 18 at age 75. Brown said he believes his grandfather is still watching and is proud that his grandson kept believing in what sometimes seemed impossible.

“There are times when you want to lose the faith,” Brown said. “You don’t want to believe that there will be an opportunity just because guys are so good here. They’re constantly cycling in unbelievable talent year after year. To finally get an opportunity to go out and play means the world.”

Clemson wide receiver Will Brown returns a kick against Florida State
Clemson wide receiver Will Brown returns a kick against Florida State

Brown will be honored with the rest of Clemson’s seniors at Saturday’s noon game against Wake Forest in Memorial Stadium. The Tigers (7-3, 5-2 ACC) can stay in the hunt for a seventh straight ACC championship and the Demon Deacons (9-1, 6-0) can clinch their first title game since 2006.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott may have soft spots for Brown. They were walk-on wide receivers, too, Swinney at Alabama and Elliott at Clemson.

Does Elliott see a bit of himself in Brown?

“Just a scrappy guy who shouldn’t really be out there competing with the guys he’s competing with? Of course,” Elliott said. “It’s a testament to him that he’s our punt returner. He’s earned that. He’s earned that by the way that he works. He’s earned that credibility in the locker room. He’s earned the trust of the coaches. ... I love Will Brown.”

“He’s a grinder. That’s what I like about him,” Swinney said. “He’s a tough kid, unbelievably committed to the program. He loves Clemson. And he's talented. He’s a good player. He’s just battled. He had some injuries in the early part of his career and had a hard time with his hamstrings. It’s been good to see him get healthy and become a contributor.”

Viewers guide: Clemson vs. Wake Forest football game: Kickoff time, how to watch, TV channel

More: Which will prevail? Clemson's stingy defense or Wake Forest's high-scoring offense?

Major change: Previously resistant, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says he will recruit the portal.

Brown said walk-ons at Clemson are held to a high standard.

“Coach Swinney always expects above and beyond from a walk-on,” Brown said. “If you’re a walk-on at Clemson, you can’t be a guy who is cutting corners. You can’t be a guy who is missing classes or study halls. … That’s what Coach Swinney and Coach Elliott expect because they’ve been through it themselves.”

Brown was on a ski trip with some friends after his third year at Clemson when he got an unexpected call from Swinney.

“I was wondering if I had done anything bad,” Brown said. “He told me he was putting me on scholarship. I just started crying. I called my family and they started crying, too.”

That included Grandpa Babb, whose strong faith perhaps didn’t include a scholarship that would be renewed two more times and get Brown through graduate school.

“His biggest goal for me was to come here and make a difference in the lives of people around me. And also, hopefully, play," Brown said. "It has been really sweet to be able to be a part of the program over the last five years. I’ve been able to do a lot of cool things and been able to win a lot of games with a lot of great people.

“... I think my Grandpa is proud of me for keeping the faith.”

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Keeping the faith: Local walk-on Will Brown became starter for Clemson

Source : https://news.yahoo.com/keeping-faith-local-walk-brown-113422092.html

1016
Keeping the faith: How local walk-on Will Brown became starter for Clemson

Source:YAHOO!News

Keeping the faith: How local walk-on Will Brown became starter for Clemson

Why Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook and other NBA stars fought to save Julius Jones

Source:ESPN.com

Why Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook and other NBA stars fought to save Julius Jones

Medal push for Prince, FBI bus driver, 911 livestreaming: News from around our 50 states

Source:Yahoo News

Medal push for Prince, FBI bus driver, 911 livestreaming: News from around our 50 states