JACKSONVILLE – Travis Etienne Jr. is a really, really good football player. If you watched college football the last three years, you know how explosive he was for the Clemson Tigers – and Jaguars fans have to be excited about that speed, those fluid hips that confuse a defenders and those feet that change direction on a dime. Etienne, a rookie running back for the Jaguars and the No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, brings to the Jaguars a wealth of statistics. He would need an entire room to display all the honors he accumulated alongside another rookie from Clemson, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Maybe the most impressive part is his drive to keep going and to be the best player he can be in the NFL. That was undercurrent of senior correspondent Brian Sexton's conversation with a player that head coach Urban Meyer is counting on being a difference maker.
Question: Were you at all surprised by the talk and debate around what position you'd play in Coach Meyer's offense?
Answer: I'm going to be a playmaker here. They brought me in here to make plays – and not just plays, but big plays – and that's what I am going to do. Whether that's from out wide or in the slot or as a running back out of the backfield. I'm a football player. Urban Meyer is a football coach and I'm going to trust that he knows how to get the most out of me and I'm all about getting the most of myself. Just get the ball into my hands and I'm going to try and make something great happen and I feel like the coaches know that and they're going to find fun ways to do that.
Q: Clemson and the Tigers football program is the highest level of college football, so how different does it feel to be an NFL player?
A: It's funny because in college you have it in the back of your mind that there is another level, then you get here and there is no other level to reach and to strive for. I'm really trying to soak it all in, to be in the moment because this is where I've always wanted to be, where I worked so hard to get to, where I dreamed about being my whole life. Now, I'm here. Now it's about maximizing my career and helping my team win the Super Bowl and becoming a Hall of Fame caliber player. Those are the goals I am working towards now.
Q: When did it hit you that you had reached your goal? How did it feel when you realized that you had reached the pinnacle of football in America?
A: I pulled my uniform on for the first time and I was like; 'Dang, I'm actually a professional NFL player, a Jacksonville Jaguar.' It just sort of comes full circle when I'm here every day with the guys. You see Carlos Hyde, who has been in the game for a few years and done it at the highest level, and he's been where I want to go. Being here with guys like that and DJ Chark, Shaq Griffin and Myles Jack is a very humbling experience for me, and it shows me if I stick with it and continue to grind, I'll get there too. It still shocks me each and every day when I wake up that I am playing in the NFL, something I love and have always wanted to do. I get to come out here and practice and get better. I'm just trying to live in the moment, to not get lost in the moment, to be fully aware of where I am and what I can do.
Q: How do you plan to avoid getting lost in the moment and staying focused on your goals?
A: It's kind of crazy isn't it? I talk to my sisters, my brother, my mom and dad and we're all kind of spinning from it all. None of us have ever been in this position before. We're just going to go through this NFL experience together and it's great to have my family as my backbone to support me because it lets me know that I am still the same guy even though I am in this world and these folks still know that and love me. It's nice to know they're on my side.
Q: You're from Jennings, Louisiana, a small town of less than 12,000 people. How would they describe their hometown hero who has given them plenty of reasons to be proud?
A: I'd hope they still see me as their hometown kid, a small-town kid living a big dream. Hopefully they'd say he's always been one of the guys, happy and humble and always tried to walk his road in a way that is pleasing to God. I've always tried to be a nice person who treats people, everyone I meet, the same way I would like to be treated even if I wasn't a football player. I don't want to lose that; I'm always telling myself not to lose myself in the moment and forget who I am and where I came from.
Q: Clearly Jennings and Clemson have helped shape the person you are, and it seems as if you bring a rock-solid foundation with you to Jacksonville. How will use those experience to help build a brand-new program in Jacksonville being shaped by Coach Meyer?
A: Coach Meyer brought us here to do that and he wants great people and great players on his team. I feel like everyone you see here is here for a reason, because Coach Meyer saw something in them that made him want them to be here just like he wanted Trevor and me. If you have great people, you have a chance to have a great culture, like we had at Clemson. It isn't guaranteed but it's possible and I lived that in college and I know that Coach Meyer is building the same culture in this building.