Who is C.J. Davidson?

CLEMSON – For a guy who spent his whole life just miles from campus, C.J. Davidson certainly took a circuitous route to his debut in Clemson's backfield Saturday afternoon.

The D.W. Daniel graduate turned down football offers from Kentucky and TCU, choosing a track scholarship at Clemson.

But when an injury ended his track career prematurely, Davidson went right to running backs coach Tony Elliott's door.

Following a year as a walk-on, he's back on scholarship and has carved out a role in Clemson's backfield. Saturday, he carried 13 times for 63 yards and was the Tigers' leading rusher in a 52-13 rout of South Carolina State. He says he's right where he's supposed to be.

"My demeanor hasn't changed since high school," Davidson said. "I feel like I run the same way. It's just how everything went down. I didn't get the offers I hoped to, but I just run hard."

The Upstate native began his high school career at Seneca, then transferred as a sophomore to rival Daniel. While there, he spent time as a running back and slot receiver, even playing in the "Wildcat" formation as a quarterback.

Then-running backs coach Andre Powell showed interest, but the Tigers already had a standout commitment at tailback.

"He told me we've got this 5-star running back. I hope you understand," Davidson recalled. "It was Mike Bellamy. I told him I understand, and hopefully one day I can be out there."

He signed with Clemson as a long jump specialist – his best was 24 feet – but former Daniel teammates like DeAndre Hopkins kept pushing him to give football a try.

"Nuk told me, ‘You've got to come out, you've got to come out,'" he said. "I felt I'd have the opportunity to play."

A little over a year ago, Davidson suffered a lower abdominal strain which hindered his jumping ability.

"I got discouraged," he said. "It's not that I felt I couldn't perform any more in track. I just felt like God directed me in a different route."

That route was football. He told Elliott he was ready to walk on, even if it meant dropping his track scholarship; NCAA rules do not permit football athletes to carry any sort of scholarship for another sport, as to prevent schools from stashing athletes in other sports to circumvent the 85-scholarship limit.

"I told (Elliott) my situation and that I was willing to do whatever it takes to get me ready to play," he said. " If it takes me waiting I'll wait. I knew about the deal having to drop your scholarship. I said I'm willing to drop it to do something I love."

He impressed coaches with his speed and straight-line running ability, as well as the willingness to run between the tackles. Last month, Davidson earned a full scholarship.

"Coach (Chad) Morris, coach (Dabo) Swinney, coach Elliott, they say I'm a speed back," Davidson said. " I do have speed but I feel I can run between the tackles. I'm not scared to lower my shoulders at the same time, I know what I'm capable of doing, I just make sure I stay within my style of play."

Running down the hill for the first time with his new teammates was "surreal," Davidson said, and he sounds like a man very pleased with his career path.

"You definitely can see the difference between more support within the community (between track and football," he said. "Within the team I can say there's a lot more camaraderie, because there's a lot more people, more of a team sport. Outside of that, it's great to be in a college town and a football town as well."

Davidson didn't carry the ball against Georgia, but had a feeling he'd get his shot against S.C. State.

"I knew that once I got the opportunity I'd be prepared enough to perform," he said. "The main thing was to show coach Morris and the rest of the offense that I knew what I was doing. So that was basically what I did."

Morris says he still has work to be a complete back.

"We know what C.J. can do with the ball in his hands," Morris said. "We saw that Saturday, we've seen it all through fall camp. The thing that C.J.'s got to build on, this being his first season of football, essentially since high school, is knowing what to do when the ball's not in his hands.

"And being able to step up and pass protect. You can't have any missed assignment by a running back in pass protection, because if you do, you'll find No. 10 (Tajh Boyd) laying on the ground. He's got to get better at the overall knowledge of the offense. He showed some things in a game setting that he's able to do in terms of helping us out."

All that can come in time. For now, Davidson is just pleased his long route has led him where he really wanted to be all along.

"Opportunity came," he said, "and I took it."

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