Dabo Swinney remembers the letters well: RTTB (Road to Tampa Bay).
In 2009, that was the ACC's slogan leading up to the conference's championship game at Raymond James Stadium. Clemson ended up losing 39-34 to Georgia Tech, and the finish, on a touchdown with 1:20 left, still lingers with him.
"They've got to go 86 yards to beat us, and they converted like three or four fourth downs on that drive. Just painful, and they win the game," he said. "I remember walking off the field because we were going to the Orange Bowl (with a win). Clemson hadn't been to the Orange Bowl in 30 years. It was meant to be. We're walking off the field, and the oranges are being thrown at us for the wrong reasons. Next thing I know, we're in the Music City Bowl (in Nashville).
"No offense to the Music City Bowl, but it was 20 degrees, and I'm thinking I'm going to be on South Beach."
The letters are a motivation still for Swinney, who kept some of his RTTB gear and has kept his focus on Tampa, even as postseason stops along the way have changed on Clemson.
"I've used that with our team all year long," he said. "We thought we were going to Charlotte, we went to Orlando (when the site of the ACC title game was moved). We thought we were going to Atlanta, we went to Arizona, but we never got off the Road to Tampa Bay. … Now here we are. It's just awesome to have another opportunity to try to win a championship on this field."
Clemson has a Humphries clone
Bucs WR Adam Humphries has caught 82 passes in his first two NFL seasons after coming into the league as an undrafted rookie out of Clemson, which has put its share of talented receivers into the league the past few years.
"We talk about him all the time," co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jeff Scott said. "He's a great example of a guy who's separated himself because of the details, the fundamentals, the technique. Adam's not going to impress anybody from his physical stature, but Adam still holds the record at Clemson for most games started by a receiver. That consistency says a lot."
Scott remembers high school coaches telling him they had found "the next Humphries" in current sophomore Hunter Renfrow, who like Humphries (5-11, 195) is undersized at 5-11, 180. But Renfrow has caught 30-plus passes in each of his two seasons, with a combined nine TDs.
"People ask me all the time if I enjoy the comparison, and I do," Renfrow said. "He's a starter in the NFL, he's a good guy and he's about the right things. It's an honor for me."
Renfrow redshirted during Humphries' senior year in 2014, and their bonding included a little receiver-on-receiver crime, just to welcome him to campus.
"One of the first days at Clemson, he'd be like 'Oh, the meeting's in that building.' He sent me to the wrong building, pranked me like that," he said. "But it was pretty cool. We've been texting, and I'll see him at practice today."
Scott attends grandfather's funeral
Clemson receiver and former East Lake High standout Artavis Scott was not at Saturday's media day because he was serving as a pallbearer at his grandfather's funeral.
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Scott, the Tigers' all-time leader in receptions, was expected to rejoin the team for the group photo and attend practice, coach Dabo Swinney said.
"He's great," Swinney said at Amalie Arena during media day for Monday's College Football Playoff national title game. "He really has been an unbelievable player for us. Everyone talks about Deshaun (Watson), but Artavis graduated in three years, too. Three years, he's the leading receiver in the history of Clemson. We all know there's been some great ones come through. This young man is an incredibly underrated football player. He has grown as a man and has a bright future."
Plant City's Chase reaps benefits of trip
Because teams are permitted to expand travel parties for College Football Playoff trips to include all redshirts, former Plant City High standout T.J. Chase gets an all-expense-paid homecoming this weekend.
Chase, wrapping up his first season at Clemson, attended the Tigers' portion of media day, and also gets the standard player allotment of six tickets for Monday's CFP national title game.
"I feel like (redshirting) helped me out a lot," said Chase, who had nearly 900 receiving yards and nine touchdowns at Plant City in 2015. "It's getting me ready for spring ball."