Anthony puts best foot forward

CLEMSON – At one point early in the second half Thursday night, Shaq Anthony looked up into Carter-Finley Stadium's stands, and caught a glimpse of his mother.

"I saw my mom was smiling," Clemson's sophomore right tackle said. "She was happy I got a chance to go in."

When starter Gifford Timothy was sidelined with a concussion, it gave Anthony his first meaningful playing time since last October. Making it especially meaningful? Last winter, Anthony had no idea when he'd get back on the field.

Academic issues sidelined him for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU and put his Clemson career in jeopardy. With those issues resolved and his eligibility secured, Anthony is working his way back into his coaches' good graces.

If Timothy's concussion keeps him sidelined, Anthony is in line to make his third career start Saturday against Wake Forest.

"It's been a process, but at the end of the day I put myself in that position (to work back)," he said. "I knew what it was going to be like. My parents have been very supportive, and a lot of the coaching staff was very supportive of me working my way back with school and football. It's not always going to be good, but I know the coaches have given me a chance to work back into the rotation and where I was a year ago. I've had to take it head on, attack that adversity."

Last fall, Anthony's first season of college football got off to a promising beginning. He started at right tackle against both Ball State and Furman. But as his grades slipped, so did his playing time. His last appearance came in garbage time against Duke in early November, recording 19 snaps.

He was ineligible for the Chick-fil-A Bowl after failing to pass the minimum number of credit hours required during the fall semester, and said that as late as this spring, he was uncertain if he'd be eligible this fall.

School, not football, had to be the focus.

"I know at one point in the spring, coaches were unsure of my eligibility this fall, because of the amount of hours I didn't pass last fall," he said. "Not being bowl-eligible, that was a big thing on a lot of coaches' minds, knowing if I was going to be eligible for the first game or the first four games."

Anthony chose to speak with action. He focused on his schoolwork, and being "coachable and respectful" in practice.

"I wasn't big on talking," he said. "I was more of, I'm going to show you guys what I was going to do,' and I did. I had to walk out what I said I was going to do. Basically just worked hard in the spring, worked hard in the summer and came back and did what was necessary for me to be eligible for these games."

His teammates have certainly taken notice.

"Lately in practice, he's gotten better. That's where it starts," said senior tackle Brandon Thomas. "You've got to be trustful in practice to play in games. I think he's gotten a lot better, his footwork has gotten a lot better, his hand placement has gotten better, kicksets, everything has gotten a lot better and his coaches have begun to trust him even more."

Clearly, offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has built trust, too.

"Coach Caldwell told me, Go out there, play, have fun, don't be nervous, " he said. "He said, ‘This is the opportunity you've been waiting on.'" Last year at one point I was getting some playing time and some things took place. Coach Caldwell said this is an opportunity for you to show us what you can do. I took the opportunity to do that."

Anthony uses the Boy Scout approach to games: always be prepared. But he admitted being thrown into the mix in Raleigh to replace an ineffective Timothy caught him a bit off-guard.

"It's apparent, you could tell, I was playing a little nervous, playing a little timid," he said. "I felt like I put a good foot forward when I got my chance. The most important thing is that we got the win. Hopefully I was able to help out in the protection scheme. Going out there and getting the opportunity, I wanted to make sure I had no regrets. Looking at the game film, I didn't have any regrets."

It was a happy moment – one that has been a long time coming for Anthony and his family.

"I know (my mom) was happy I got a chance to go in," he said. "It's everything I was working for, this summer in the weight room, the heat, I worked hard in school. It's been a long process, and it felt great to have a chance to go in and do what I had worked for."

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