T.J. Chase and the Clemson Tigers are preparing to face Alabama on Jan. 7.
T.J. Chase didn’t have much time to celebrate after helping the Clemson Tigers win the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29: he and his teammates started preparing for Alabama that same night by watching film. It’s the nature of the beast.
As deep as Chase is in the film room, though, he’s found time to take it all in. The redshirt sophomore wide receiver is as thrilled as anyone to be on this stage, competing for his sport’s highest honor with his band of brothers in what’s become college football’s most compelling new rivalry. What makes this year different for Chase, though, is that his number is finally getting called and he’s getting his chance to make plays on the field.
If goal 1a is to go 15-0 and bring the championship back to his corner of South Carolina, goal 1b is to represent Plant City on the biggest stage of them all.
“It’s amazing to have a chance to go back to the national championship,” Chase said. “In 2016 I had to redshirt so this time, having the opportunity to participate, it’s big time for me.”
He certainly picked a good time to join the Clemson family. The Tigers and Crimson Tide are about to face off in the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive year. Of these meetings, only the Jan. 1, 2018 Sugar Bowl (a 24-6 win for Bama) was not a national title game. Chase signed with Clemson shortly after the 2016 game, a 45-40 thriller won by Alabama, and watched the Tigers pull off a 35-31 upset in his redshirt season. He appeared in five games in 2017 but did not play in that Sugar Bowl game.
Chase appeared in nine games in 2018 and has caught 12 passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns. In the Tigers’ 30-3 dismantling of Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl, Chase got on the field late in the game and caught two passes for a total of 17 yards, starting with a quick 13-yard catch to get the Tigers a first down.
“I was ready to go out there and do my thing, put on for my city,” Chase said.
Chase said this postseason has been his favorite thus far — partly because of the excellent season Clemson has had, partly because he’s gotten playing time. The Tigers are one of the few programs that’s managed to live up to expectations year in and year out recently and Chase said his experience at Clemson has been similar to living in Plant City: a “welcoming, family atmosphere” on and off campus where he and his teammates have all the support they could ever need.
And they will need it. This year’s Crimson Tide squad might be one of the most talented in the program’s history, which is saying a lot, and its players are battle-tested. Though the Tigers are young, especially on offense, the talent to score on Bama’s vaunted defense is there. Clemson’s defense is one of the few in the country many consider capable of hanging with Bama’s offense. Chase knows the odds of a win coming easily on Jan. 7 are slim to none, but he’s ready to put in the work to help make it happen.
“Preparation is gonna be the key,” he said.
Chase is hoping he can get on the field again on Monday and do anything he can to help the team win. All the pieces are in place, he believes, as far as talent and coaching are concerned. He wants nothing more than to return to Plant City with a shiny new ring on his hand, able to tell people he directly contributed to what would be one of the greatest team efforts in sports during the 2018-19 period. Most importantly, Chase believes it will happen.
“We feel like we can get the job done,” he said.