CLEMSON— Sometimes leaders are born, and other times they are molded.
The latter would be the case when you look at the leader of the Clemson wide receiving core—Deon Cain.
It is a position that many would not have thought he would be in last spring when he was still serving a suspension for a violation of team rules that kept him out of the 2015 Orange Bowl and 2016 National Championship game.
“I do (think about the past) from time to time, but I just want to keep on bettering myself every day. Let the past be the past, and just make up for the future,” Cain said.
It is that mentality that helped him return to the football field in a dynamic way last season, as the sixth leading receiver and the Tigers leader in yards per reception (out of players with more than two receptions on the season) at 19.1 yards.
Now, following a successful return to the Tigers in 2016 and the departure of the two veteran leaders, Mike Williams and Artavis, Cain is now using his previous experience to help lead a wide receiving core that is looking for leadership.
“Just being a quarterback, from my previous experience, I know that having that leadership role is something that I’m used to. That’s something that I just want to show my team that I am,” Cain said. “I know that with me being out there and my skillset and showing them what I can do—leading them is the best way and it makes me feel good as a person.”
That leadership role is something that Cain believes he has been groomed for by both Williams and Scott, who both continue to pour into the rising junior, because they both believe that Cain has yet to reach his full potential.
“They have been giving me tips on what I need to work on—telling me what I need to get better on and telling me that the sky’s the limit for me…It means a lot,” Cain said. “It gives me more hope and a desire to pursue more for this team.”
Part of being the leader that the talented receiving core will need, is understanding when to speak up and let the other members of the squad know that they have not lived up to expectations.
“We need to work on staying focused. I feel like we wasn’t focused going in,” Cain said. “I feel like we turned down (the focus) and we need to get that spark back. I just think that when we come back we’ve just gotta stay consistent and be focused.
“We’ve got a lot of goals here for this upcoming season. I know that we’ve got a lot of expectation that people want us to hold up to and we just want to go out there and play like the regular Clemson that we normally do.”
It will take more than Cain though to lead the Tigers back to where they want to be in January of 2018—Atlanta for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. It will take multiple players at a variety of positions holding each other accountable through the remainder of the spring, through the summer, into the fall and through a long season.
But for Cain, he is encouraged with what he has seen out of the rest of the Tigers.
“All of our quarterbacks are stepping up. Ray-Ray (McCloud) is stepping up. You’ve got Maverick Morris. You’ve got Mitch Hyatt and just all the running backs,” Cain said. “I think that, intentionally, you see everybody stepping up, because they see that role that we need everybody to play. It’s not just the first five, six, seven, eight people—we need everybody leading, backups included.”