Freshman Tight End Surprises

CLEMSON – They say the dignified and professional way to react after scoring a touchdown is to act like you've been in the end zone before and not make too big of a deal out of it.

The problem for Brian Linthicum was that he'd never scored a touchdown in college.

So, when his moment came in the just a scant nine minutes into the start of his collegiate career, Linthicum seemed somewhat in shock after getting Clemson's first score of the season.

The freshman tight end jumped up and down, flailed his arms and genuinely looked delirious.

"I haven't really watched it, but from what I've heard it really doesn't look like I knew what I was doing," Linthicum said. "But it's not like I anticipated going through my head what I would do."

But when his second touchdown came just a few days later against Louisiana-Monroe, he was much more subdued. This time he knew what to do. He said he didn't want to go overboard or show up his opponent.

And that is Linthicum in a nutshell.

He generally only makes a mistake once before making sure it doesn't happen again. That's the way he's been ever since he first stepped foot at Clemson back in January.

The New Mexico native, by his own admission, had a very difficult and poor spring practice. He just seemed overwhelmed at times.

In fact, things were so bad that there were thoughts by the coaching staff that they might have to redshirt him after they had initially thought he would be able to step in and contribute to the team.

"That doesn't surprise me just the way I played over the spring," he said. "A lot of it was just confusion with the offense and being undersized. So, basically it was just kind of up to the summer and the camp as to how far I would go."

"During the summer I really got the offense down and my body strength went up, so it was a lot easier for me coming into camp," Linthicum said. "I just had a whole different mindset. I knew that if I didn't do it, I'd be sitting on the sidelines."
Another worry for the staff was his weight. At a scant 220 pounds, Linthicum was vastly underweight for a tight end at a big time program.

However, being true to his nature, Linthicum set forth to try and cure all those ills by the start of August. Instead of going home for the summer, he stayed at Clemson for both summer school sessions and practically lived in the weight room. His diet also got strict.

He worked out twice a day in the lifting weights and was constantly eating protein-type foods. He'd wake up at 3 a.m. just to drink a protein shake.

But it all worked as he gained 20 pounds by the start of fall camp.

"I just think the kid is passionate about being a really good player," said tight ends coach Billy Napier, who was caught completely off guard by this sudden change.

While Linthicum was in the process of getting bigger, he was also studying the playbook left and right. And by the start of fall camp in August, he had picked up on what to do on the field, too.

"During the summer I really got the offense down and my body strength went up, so it was a lot easier for me coming into camp," Linthicum said. "I just had a whole different mindset. I knew that if I didn't do it, I'd be sitting on the sidelines."

Being roommates with freshman quarterback Willy Korn didn't hurt, either. The two of them constantly poured over the offense to try and learn every aspect and detail. Of course, when someone like Linthicum has nearly a 4.0 GPA and a very high SAT, it's only going to be a matter of time before he learns everything.

"He's a guy who's really serious about competing," Napier said. "He's got a ton of room for improvement, but he's really filled a need for us. He's very dependable guy and takes it serious. He's starting to understand the big picture."

All the hard work has definitely paid off as he has more touchdowns in his first two games than the entire tight corps had all of last year, which was one and that came in the final game of the season.

"It's pretty exciting," Linthicum said. "I never really pictured it like this, but when Coach Napier was recruiting me, he always told me that I had this opportunity, so it's great that it actually turned out this way."

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