When Brent Venables was named football coach at Oklahoma on Dec. 6, Tyler Venables was thrust into the personal debate of a lifetime – namely, would he follow his dad or remain at Clemson?
It launched quite an internal struggle for Tyler, a rising junior safety who spent the bulk of his formative years in the Upstate of South Carolina, living and thriving in the long shadows of Death Valley and starring as a quarterback at nearby Daniel High School.
He has spent the past two seasons developing under his dad, who was encouraged by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to leave Oklahoma in 2012 and begin a 10-year journey with the Tigers as one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation.
So when Tyler was confronted by the option to stay or leave, his initial inclination was to pack his bags.
“I was thinking it would be pretty cool to transfer over there, continue to play for him,” Tyler said. “It was always my dream growing up as a kid – why wouldn’t you want to play for your dad at the collegiate level?”
Then he remembered that he already had.
“I got to play for my dad for two solid years,” Tyler said. “Now I think it’s time that I dig in and stand on my own two feet.”
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That’s welcome news for a good portion of Clemson followers who considered it a foregone conclusion that he’d be singing Boomer Sooner – well, sooner.
How Brent Venables, Dabo Swinney figured into the decision
Tyler said he knew by the time Clemson played Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29 that he’d be staying put.
“If you go there (to Oklahoma), you have to start it all over,” Tyler said. “Your respect is at zero and you’ve got to prove yourself every day again to people who don’t know you. It’s another complication to go through.
“I thought about the relationships I’ve already got with the guys here and the coaches. The locker room culture here is extremely special.”
Still, the player who signed with Clemson on Dec. 18, 2019 – his father’s birthday – mulled his decision for days. To his credit, Brent Venables did not want to influence Tyler’s decision either way.
“I thought it would have been really fun if I came there, too, of course,” Tyler said. “But I think what he stressed to me a lot was, ‘Your life is already pretty simple, simplicity is special, and it’s pretty rare to have true simplicity.’
“I thought about that a lot. I’ve already established myself here, Clemson’s a great place, and yeah, I kind of do like simplicity, too.”
In the meantime, he’s been sidelined. Tyler missed all of spring practice while recovering from surgeries to repair a torn labrum in his hip as well as a detached pectoral muscle.
“It was not fun because I wanted to use this spring to develop more – physically, mentally, get some reps on the field, and obviously I couldn’t do that,” Tyler said. “The only thing I could do was mentally prepare myself and act like I was going to be out there every day for 20 periods. So I watched as much tape as I could and listened to Coach Wes (new defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin) and what he wants our defense to look like.”
Other considerations that influenced Tyler’s decision to remain at Clemson were the chance to be part of a defense that returns four players who earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors as well as the opportunity to notch a program-record 12th consecutive season with 10 or more victories .
“My dad is going out and carving his own path and I thought I want to be there for him and buy into his program and do everything I can to make sure he succeeds, but at the same time I was thinking ‘Am I quitting on Coach Swanney? Am I quitting on Clemson if I do that? Am I picking Coach Swinney over my own father?’
“It was a lot to consider, but I have a really good peace about my decision,” Tyler said. “This is where I need to be.”