The 2021 NFL Draft began with Clemson history being made and the night ended with more Tiger history being made.
Former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence began the historic night when the Jacksonville Jaguars officially made him the No. 1 overall pick. They then selected former Tiger running back Travis Etienne near the end of the first round (No. 25 overall).
That pick made Lawrence and Etienne the first quarterback and running back duo selected from the same school by the same NFL team in the first round of the modern draft era (since 1967).
The selections of Lawrence and Etienne also gave Clemson multiple first-round picks for a program-record third straight year. This makes Clemson one of only two programs to have produced multiple first-rounders in each of the last three drafts. The other is Alabama, who also tied a record with six players taken in the first round.
The pick made Etienne Clemson’s third first-round running back in the modern draft era as well. He joined Terrence Flagler (No. 25 in 1987) and current Clemson running backs coach C.J. Spiller (No. 9 in 2010) with this accomplishment. He moves on to Jacksonville after completing one of the most highly decorated careers in Clemson, ACC, and college football history.
Etienne became a consensus All-American in 2020 after winning back-to-back ACC Player of the Year honors in 2018 and 2019. He leaves for the NFL as the FBS record-holder for most career games scoring a touchdown (46 in his 55 career games), as well as the ACC career record-holder for rushing yards (4,952), total touchdowns (78), rushing touchdowns (70) and points scored (468).
Lawrence was one of the first to celebrate the pick with a tweet letting everyone know that he and Etienne were ready to go to work.
Lawrence’s selection made even more school history because the pick at No. 1 surpassed Banks McFadden (No. 4 in 1939), Gaines Adams (No. 4 in 2007), Sammy Watkins (No 4 in 2014) and Clelin Ferrell (No. 4 in 2019) making him the highest overall NFL Draft selection from Clemson all-time. He also became just the third No. 1 overall pick in all sports in Clemson Athletics history, joining baseball’s Kris Benson (1996) and men’s soccer’s Robbie Robinson (2020).
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney released a statement about each player following them being picked and he had nothing but great things to say about both. As far as Lawrence goes Swinney made it pretty clear what he feels the Jaguars are getting.
“The Jaguars are getting a winner, capital W-I-N-N-E-R, WINNER,” Swinney said. “They’re getting a great human being, great leader and a highly skilled football player.”
Then, regarding Etienne, Swinney discussed his ability to be an every down back and just exactly how explosive he can be.
“He is a first-, second- and third-down guy, and he can change the game any play, any quarter,” Swinney said. “Any time he touches the ball, he is one of those guys that you’ve got to hold your breath.”
Both players showed exactly how driven they are, as well as their competitive nature just by playing last season. Lawrence could have easily chosen to opt out once the pandemic hit and still would have been the number-one overall pick, but that isn’t who he is. Not even close.
Eitenne could have also easily chosen to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft last season, knowing he likely would have been, at worst, a second round pick. Instead, he chose to return, not only to solidify himself as a first rounder, but to also finish his education and get his degree.
Both players also felt like they had unfinished business on the field after the disappointing loss to LSU in the 2019 national championship. While they weren’t able to help lead Clemson to another national title, there is no doubt both players left everything they had on the field in an effort to do so.