Darien Rencher on Leadership, Allstate AFCA Good Works Team selection

Clemson Running Back Darien Rencher Photo Courtesy Clemson Athletics

Darien Rencher has made the absolute MOST of his opportunity to play football for Clemson University.

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Originally a walk-on who dreamed about playing for the Tigers as a kid growing up 20 minutes away, he worked for years to turn that dream into reality.

And it paid off.

Playing in his sixth season thanks to an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, Rencher has earned a scholarship, won a National Championship, Five ACC titles, and has been named to the Allstate Good Works Team.

Rencher maximized every opportunity he received and in the process, has turned into a team and community leader.

He entered 2021 having recorded 74 carries for 375 yards and three touchdowns in 150 snaps over 35 career games.

Darien Rencher Q&A:

5 ACC titles and 5 Playoff appearances in 5 years – what’s the secret that you and your teammates have at Clemson that so many schools can’t figure out? Is it one thing, one word? Or is it multiple things?

Darien Rencher: I’ve been here for a while and Id say the biggest thing is “the people make the place.” I think about all the people that have come through Clemson throughout my career. And the coaching staff and the people in the building. I think everything in the culture around Clemson is living up to a standard of excellence in everything we do. And hopefully it bleeds into everything we do; and the thing that everyone cares about which is winning games on the field.

From player development to community service, academics, to becoming a man and being about your businesses. It’s all about the standard of being the best man you can be, which makes you become the best football player you can be. The culture of people living their best self is what has made Clemson what it is.

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What makes a leader, a LEADER? And what’s the difference between someone who tries to force leadership?

Darien Rencher: I think a leader at the end of the day is someone who cares and is willing to do everything to make it work for everyone else. It can be lonely sometimes, which comes with the territory. But I think it is so rewarding when you see the outcome that you want, that the people around you want.

The leader helps people do the things they don’t want to do to get where they want to be. And they give people vision. Not everyone can see what’s out there or where they want to go. And the leader is the one who has the vision and shows people what steps it takes to get there.

The difference between that and someone who tries to force leadership, the best way I’ve been groomed to think about leadership is you don’t want to be authoritative, and tell people to do. But more so, you want to inspire people and influence by showing them a better way to go about life.

The best leaders in my life have not told me what to do – they inspired me by the way they live their life. And showed me a better way. Like, “I’m going to follow that guy because look how he’s living his life. He’s proving it by showing me and that inspires me to think I can do it for my own life too.”

Take me back to your first career touchdown on an eight-yard run at Louisville; was your heart just EXPLODING? What was going thru your mind upon scoring and on the trip back to the sideline?

Darien Rencher: My first TD was in 2018 — or 2019 — I don’t remember lol. Yeah, 2019 season. When moments like that happen, it’s just such a monumental, mile marker on my journey. Because so much work had been put into it. To even get into position to go into a game at Clemson was a huge accomplishment for me. Then to actually get in the game, execute the play, then score a TD on this level was just special.

My journey to get here, it was a dream of mine. To come as a walk-on, earn a scholarship, to be trusted to go into the game, and then to perform…all those things were rushing through my mind. And when it happened I was just overjoyed. I had one of the biggest smiles of my life.

And seeing the impact of how excited my teammates were for me, it was like no other. I think the whole team was cheering — everybody was excited to see me succeed. And that tell me more than scoring the TD – seeing how excited my teammates were for me.

And yes, my heart was exploding. There was so much joy in my heart. It was definitely a moment that will compel me to do more great things because all the work was worth it.

Photo Credit: Clemson Athletics

What does it mean to you to be named to the Allstate Good Works Team?

Darien Rencher: I think it means everything. People get named to All-American teams for their performance on the field. But this is about being a human All-American. It goes in line with who I want to be. Just being about the right things and making a difference with the platform you’ve been given.

It means the world to me to be on this team with so many good guys now, and with so many from the past special individuals that made it such an honor to be a part of.

What is your favorite part about working in the community? What projects have you started or are working with? (share links to websites, social, etc.)

Darien Rencher: My favorite part is giving people hope and inspiring people. I dream about making this world better and brighter by the life I have and hopefully just by my existence, in whatever space I’m in, people can say that I made it better and added value to the place and the people.

I think about what I can do locally while I am at Clemson, and things I’ve gotten to be a part of nationally throughout my years. And hopefully I’ve made things better for all people involved.

How often do you wear your national championship ring/ACC title rings? Do you ever just wear them around the house while doing some inane task, like laundry?

Darien Rencher: Absolutely not. I will wear that ring if I am going to a Clemson event. Or, maybe like a job thing where I know someone might be fascinated to see it. But no, that is not how I move lol! I do not wear my rings around.

But, I DO cherish them. I keep them in a safe space in my house. To always remind me as a great symbol that you can always accomplish great things. That I’ve been a part of some very special things. More so for that purpose but not to show off.

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Now in your 6th year at Clemson, what would you go back and tell year one Darien about what was to come? What advice would you give him?

Darien Rencher: Oooh – year one Darrien? 2016…hmmm. I would tell young 18 year-old wide-eyed Darrien, just happy to be inside the locker room…get a jersey. To be a part of the program he’s watch his entire life, living like 25 minutes away down the street…coming off two knee injuries…I would just tell him that everything matters. To dream big and never let go. To never quit. Everything I he wanted to do and prove to himself, he could and would do.

Throughout my time, I’ve seen a lot of people’s journeys play out a lot of different ways. I was depressed, thought about giving up, all of those things. The right things will find you, the right people will find you.

I’d tell him you just never know! I can’t wait to see what I’ll tell Darrien of 28, 33, years old and so on!

I’ve been a freelance journalist since 2000 and have had my work published via AskMen, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Busted Coverage, and Autotrader. I’ve done stand-up comedy. I'm a dad, youth soccer club President, and former team statistician for the oldest indoor football team in the world, the Omaha Beef. I own a design agency in Omaha, NE called lgx branding. I’ve married six couples in 10 years and my Marriage to Still Married ratio is 6:6. I always say, it isn’t so much about the “love,” as it is the tasteless jokes that became vows. I started the I-80 Sports Blog to have all the work I've published located in one place and to write about things I want to write about. I don't take anything too seriously and it is a real time saver.