What does this game mean to you, growing up a South Carolina native?
Austin: Well being from Camden, which is about 30 minutes away from Columbia, this is a really special game for me. I know a lot of guys who go to school there and I played against a lot of those guys in high school. So, yeah, I think that and it being the last time I get to play South Carolina make it really special for me. We really want to win this game.
Was South Carolina an option for you, and if so, how close were you going there?
Austin: Sure, South Carolina was in my top three. I liked Clemson and I liked Vanderbilt. So yeah, I was pretty neutral growing up until later on. I didn't lean either way as a kid. My dad went to West Point and my mom went to Oklahoma so I didn't really have a preference either way. Then obviously coming to Clemson and seeing the campus, I fell in love with it.
Did you feel like the fan base was evenly split back in Camden, SC?
Austin: I would say it leans a little bit more towards USC. The pastor at my church was a Clemson fan and then my youth pastor was a South Carolina fan so it was always a fun little rivalry to watch growing up.
Did you pay this rivalry game much attention growing up?
Austin: Yeah, I paid attention to it just because I loved football. I didn't really, until high school, understand everything that was involved in the game. You could win bragging rights for an entire year and it could also make or break a team's season in some senses. I think it's a really unique rivalry even though we aren't in the same conference.
Do many of your USC friends give you a hard time?
Austin: Well a lot of my friends will say "I pull for you, but I don't pull for Clemson." I keep up with a lot of those guys throughout the year and we kind of jab back and forth at each other. It's just a fun rivalry and that's what makes college football so unique.
What was the genesis of the Thursday night meal tradition hosted by you and your wife for your teammates?
Austin: I used to do it, I've done it for the last couple of years. It's just a way to get the guys together and just kind of hang out. Thursday is kind of the end of our academic week and we just kind of turn the pace towards football completely, maybe watch a game. It's just a great time of fellowship together and one of the keys is just spending time off the field together. We work so hard with each other all the time, so it's nice to get off the field, relax, and just enjoy each other's company.
Do you feel like hosting these dinners is just a natural leadership quality that comes with your position?
Austin: Well I just always like to eat, so that was just the way it kind of happened. I used to live with Tyler Grisham and Tribble Reese and a few of us on the team liked to try to have guys over. It's just kind of evolved now to where Margaret has pretty much all the cooking done by the time I get home so that makes it a little easier. It's great community.
Thanksgiving being Thursday, what do you feel like this team has had to be thankful for in your perspective of the season?
Austin: I think with it being military appreciation this last weekend, we obviously feel very thankful for the men and women serving our country. But also, being able to play the game of football is something to be thankful for. We've gone through our share of struggle throughout the season and now I think we're enjoying some success. I think being able to play in the ACC Championship game is something to be thankful for too. If you think about where we were this time last year, we didn't know who our coaching staff was going to be and to just see how that has all come together in the past year is really amazing.
8 questions with Thomas Austin
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