Embracing a new role

CLEMSON – Chris Hairston has a burning desire to be regarded as one of the Tigers' leaders during his final season at Clemson.

After learning the ropes under fellow offensive lineman Thomas Austin a season ago, Hairston is already embracing that role.

"I want to be a guy other guys can look up to and say, ‘He's doing it the right way. He's a great leader and can take us to the next level and help us win championships.' I want to be that leader," he said. "I want that role. I want to have that about me. I want to be the guy they look to when it's time to get the guys together and talk it out."

As one of those leaders, Hairston respects the decision Kyle Parker is faced with making before the end of this month.

"What Kyle does is what Kyle does. I wish him the best with whatever he does," he said.

But Hairston would like to protect Parker's blindside for one more season.

"I really want him to be behind us, under center this fall, but that's not a decision that's up to me," he said. "That's something Kyle has to do. I hope he makes the best decision for himself, not for everybody else, trying to please everybody else."

Hairston, an All-ACC second-team left tackle in 2009, has gone the extra-mile this summer to ensure that he can be at his best once he hits the field this fall. Slimmed down from 330 pounds to 315, he hopes to drop another five before the season starts in September.

"As the season went on last year, I got bigger and bigger and bigger. You can see it in my play, on my film. I can't do that this year," he said.

The results are already starting to show during skills and drills workouts.

"I'm moving a lot better—it's a whole other world," Hairston said. "I'm running faster, really just in a lot better shape. Running's getting easier. It's not about making it through—it's about training your body. I'm going to push myself a little bit harder. I'm not going to just try to make it. That's what comes when you have to get your body in good enough shape to do the grueling stuff."

The formula to help make it through those grueling on-field workouts is simple: lots of running. He wants to be as fit as possible this fall so everything can be left on the field.

"I've got to be consistent. Right now, we've got six, seven guys we can play with. We're developing the rest of them, trying to get some depth," Hairston said. "I want to be able to give my team everything I've got—every play, every snap of every game."

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