I admit, like a lot of the Clemson family, I had a minor meltdown when I heard that the Tigers lost Bent Venables.
As reason overtook my emotions, what at first felt as a sense of betrayal mellowed down to a sense of appreciation. It’s times like these I remember what my grandmother would say, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
That’s how I feel. I’m smiling because there’s so much good to reflect upon. He was and is an extraordinary mentor, leader and friend to the hundreds of young men fortunate enough to have called him, coach.
His arrival, in 2012, after a defensive disaster in the Orange Bowl where West Virginia humiliated Clemson in a 70-33 rout was the ultimate silver lining. He has been everything advertised and more. He was a major component in the unbelievable success Clemson has experienced. Two national championships, multiple conference championships and a Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach. The list goes on and on. Needless to say, he is one of the best at what he does.
I’m sure he’d be the last to admit it but he has to look back at his accomplishments here at Clemson and feel a sense of pride in all that he and his staffs have accomplished. Even in this 2021 hiccup of a season, his defense never faltered. Through injury and a lack of help from the offense, his unit might be ranked amongst his best. His defense should be credited for most of the nine victories the Tigers secured.
I read a story a long time ago entitled “The Rag Picker.” It’s a story about a traveling man (heaven sent) that searches and finds those that need a boost, guidance and his help. The man, through hard work and determination, teaches those around him not only how to survive their struggles, but to thrive. Then, when his work is complete, he moves on, never to be forgotten. Clemson’s “rag picker,” Brent Venables, came in, worked to build something that will last and now, knowing his work is done, feels he must move on.
If I live a hundred years, I will never forget his passion, his intensity and his energy on the sidelines, it was so prolific, he needed a “Get Back Coach.” Adam Smotherman, a strength and conditioning coach was that poor chosen soul to keep Venables in place on the sidelines and to keep him from running his defense from midfield. It was a hard job but he did it. I think he deserves a medal. I would imagine he might be among the saddest to see him leave. It’s a powerful friendship that restrains another from going too far and always had his back, well sorta. I’m sure Brent Venables needed and appreciated such a friend.
I wrote earlier this week of one of the “con’s” of Venables taking the Oklahoma job. I surmised his perceived awkwardness in front of the media would encourage him to stay a coordinator, not a head coach. I was wrong, it wasn’t awkwardness on his part. It was the way he answered each question. Always articulate but always with a minimum of words. Sometimes it appeared the media at times, was caught off guard, awkward. His honest, straightforward personality will be missed but not soon forgotten.
As he moves on, just like the rag picker, he leaves this program better than he found it. He taught many and inspired more to always strive for greatness and work hard to get it. That is the legacy he leaves here at Clemson, one of quiet greatness. He will surely be missed by his players, colleagues and us the fans. He was, is and always be a game changer.
As this article and his Clemson career draws to a close, I’m still smiling but I admit, a few tears may fall because goodbye is one of the hardest words to say. Especially to to the best. Godspeed Brent Venables and thank you for everything you’ve given to make Clemson champions. We’re better for having met.