Author’s note: Today’s feature on Cole Stoudt marks the beginning of a new series of articles checking up on Tigers from the past. I hope you enjoy.
The title of this article could just as easily read ‘who could ever forget Cole Stoudt?’ More about that later.
From 2011 through 2014 Stoudt was a fixture on the sidelines, communicating frenetically, the signals of Chad Morris’ hyperdrive offense. He was always ready for his number to be called but that rarely happened.
Mostly he spent his time supportively on the sidelines watching Tajh Boyd run the speedy, high flying circus of an offense. He was patient waiting his turn. That was to be in 2014, however, enter the first of two Clemson football prodigies, Deshaun Watson.
The 2014 football season was Stoudt’s senior season. Out of 13 games during the entire season, he started eight of those. He was the starter for games one through four, but with each game, Watson showed why he was one of the highest ranked recruits in the 2014 class.
Slowly, Stoudt was getting fewer and fewer snaps as Watson was showing his prodigious skills and by the fourth game, Stoudt had been supplanted from the starting line-up by Watson.
It’s important to note, that in losing his starting position, the way he handled it, he won the respect and admiration of his teammates, coaches and even some fans. At one point that season Stoudt was one of the most disparaged players ever to wear the Paw.
It was both shameful and ugly to watch. Stoudt, no doubt aware of the hate hurled his way was above the fray. He remained true to himself and his commitment to Clemson.
There was no packing of bags and desertion from the team as others have done (although transfer rules were different then and Stoudt was a senior). No, Stoudt, to his credit, did things the right way.
He was also an example of grace and dignity that shone through his pain and disappointment. Despite the loss of his position, he continued to be a leader to his fellow Tigers.
His behavior during this time showed his devotion to his teammates, his team and his university and it endeared him to me and many in the Clemson family.
Ultimately, Watson was remarkable but suffered an apparent season ending injury during the yearly match-up with Georgia Tech. Stoudt’s number was called but he could do little to reverse the teams downward spiral. The Tigers lost the game, in Atlanta 28-6, with Stoudt throwing three interception, two being returned for touchdowns.
Then came a November surprise. Watson was assumed lost due to a season ending knee injury requiring surgery, but that assumption proved to be false. Watson played flawlessly wearing a special supportive Knee brace.
He would lead Clemson to a 35-17 victory to reverse a five year losing streak to the Gamecocks. Clemson’s current seven game streak ties the series record. Afterwards, Watson had surgery and really wasn’t able to compete in any postseason opportunities.
In his final college game, Thanks to good karma, Stoudt delivered a remarkable performance in the 2014 Russell Athletics Bowl, defeating Oklahoma soundly with a final score of 40–6.
Stoudt had four touchdowns, throwing for three and running for another. He was honored as Most Valuable Player and team Offensive Player-of-the-Game.
Fittingly, that year, there was also a December surprise. Unbeknownst to those outside the program, during bowl preparations, Stoudt had blossomed under the tutelage of the ‘Quarterback Whisperer,’ Brandon Streeter, Clemson’s new quarterbacks coach. It was a remarkable transformation that Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott, the Tigers’ new co-offensive coordinators heading into that bowl game.
Deservedly, Cole Stoudt got his fairy tale ending and no one deserved it more. Upon graduation, he spent time on the Chargers’ practice squad, then as a graduate assistant and an offensive assistant at Jacksonville State and later as quarterbacks coach at Moorhead State.
In 2020, he left to become an offensive player development specialist on Dabo Swinney’s staff at Clemson. I for one was so glad to see Stoudt return home. To this day, I remember the way he handled adversity. He did it with grace, honor and devotion to something he knew, and accepted, was bigger than himself.
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