The Clemson Dubcast
Where are they now, Part 1

Where are they now, Part 1

July 1, 2022

We catch up with some prominent names of Clemson's football past to update on what they're up to, their thoughts on the state of the Tigers' program under Dabo Swinney, and their opinion on a college athletics landscape that has been transformed by NIL and the transfer portal.

In Part 1, we share our conversations with Jeff Francouer, Dalton Freeman, Tye Hill, Willie Simmons, Airese Currie and Billy Davis.

The interviews were conducted during the spring for The Clemson 30 series at Tigerillustrated.com.

 

 

 

Darien Rencher

Darien Rencher

June 24, 2022

After spending six seasons at Clemson and making a name for himself as a key figure in the player-empowerment movement, Darien Rencher now looks ahead to what's next.

He's not yet giving up his dream of playing professionally, but he has an eye toward the future and he has a number of opportunities from the connections he's made already through his energetic networking.

In the run-up to Pro Day, he spent a bunch of money living in Miami and training among some of the draft's premier prospects. He said the NIL money he earned while at Clemson funded that endeavor, and he has no regrets because the relationships he built will be fruitful long into the future.

Rencher looks back at the summer of 2020 two years ago and the lessons learned as he took the lead amid racial unrest and then amid calls to cancel the season because of the COVID threat.

In December of 2020 he was named the recipient of the Disney Spirit Award, presented annually to college football's most inspirational player, coach, team or figure.

Rencher loves Dabo Swinney and thinks he's often misunderstood by hot-take artists from afar, but he's not in total lockstep with his former head coach on matters of NIL and the transfer portal. He has complex, nuanced opinions on the state of college athletics and where it's all headed.

"It's like we're trying to put a plane together while we're flying it," he said.

Rencher said he hopes to land in the media world as a TV football analyst.

 

 

Ray Ray McElrathbey

Ray Ray McElrathbey

June 17, 2022

 

The "happily ever after" theme does not apply to Ray Ray McElrathbey in the two years after his story was chronicled in the Disney movie Safety.

McElrathbey became immersed in stock-market investing and is now trying to recoup losses amid the significant economic downturn of 2022.

He started his own shipping company but has been hit hard figuratively by the rising fuel prices, and literally last month when a truck he was driving careened off a back road in New Mexico and down a ravine. He was hospitalized, the truck was totaled, and he later rented a car and drove home to Atlanta. He considers himself lucky to be alive.

McElrathbey, who took custody of his younger brother Fahmarr while at Clemson in 2006, is deeply conflicted about what was gained from the movie and what was lost.

He said he was so eager to have his story chronicled by Disney that he quickly signed up without much consideration of compensation, and he regrets that his little brother doesn't have more to show for it.

"Fahmarr trusted me to handle everything, and I didn't do it in the best way possible. I should have gotten us a better deal."

While the movie's chronicling of Ray Ray and Fahmarr brought feel-good vibes, the depictions of his mother and father were much different.

His mother had to deal with being defined as a junkie. She continues to battle drug addiction, Ray Ray says.

"The movie ended with a picture of me, Fahmarr and my mother, and we were happy. But that was after the credits, and most people don't sit through the credits," Ray Ray says.

"She's more than just an addict. Not that I blame Disney for that; it's just that I was so giddy and excited about doing a movie that I didn't think about any ramifications about what it was like for my mom to be portrayed like that. I thought it was just all good no matter how it went down."

His father, who died of heart failure at age 54 two years before the movie aired, was cast as a deadbeat dead from the beginning in 2006 when Oprah Winfrey and other national voices descended on Clemson to chronicle the story. Ray Ray was largely responsible for those portrayals, and he now punishes himself for not having more perspective and wisdom about a father who was much more loving and redeeming than he believed years ago.

The recent accident in New Mexico brought a revelation in Ray Ray: His real calling might be spending the rest of his life sharing his story, and doing more to help children in need. 

Probably the foremost lesson Ray Ray is now experiencing in his mid-30s: Severe childhood trauma takes decades to sort out and resolve.

And resolution most certainly isn't achieved with a Disney movie.

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick Sapp

Patrick Sapp

June 9, 2022

Former Clemson quarterback Patrick Sapp joins the podcast to talk what it's like to be sending his son Josh to Clemson to play tight end for the Tigers.

Patrick shares what he learned of Cade Klubnik during the recruiting process, which provided a window into the personalities of Klubnik and the rest of the 2022 class.

Sapp gives his thoughts on the wild times in college athletics with NIL and the transfer portal bringing controversy and questions about whether it'll ever look remotely the same again.

Sapp spent years soliciting major gifts for Clemson, so he has keen insight into the current challenge of IPTAY trying to deal with the presence of TigerImpact and other independent NIL collectives that are also asking donors for money. 

 

Chad Carson

Chad Carson

May 27, 2022

Several years ago, Chad Carson and his family moved to Ecuador without making any plans beyond a three-day Airbnb rental. They ended up living there for 17 months.

Now they are preparing for a move to Spain for a year.

Carson played football at Clemson from 1998 to 2001 but has carved out life and leadership that is totally separate from the sport that defined him in college and high school.

Carson's success in the real-estate business has allowed him, his wife and two children the flexibility to explore the world. It's also granted him the time to pursue his passion of making Clemson's transportation infrastructure inclusive of more than just automobiles.

Carson joins the podcast to talk about his life in football and after football, and he offers his reflections on the rapid changes in college athletics.

"I'm not saying that getting a scholarship and an education is not valuable -- it really is. But I think college football has always been a pro sport. We were treated like pro athletes all along. It's a business, and you get pushed hard by coaches who are saying 'sink or swim' because their jobs are on the line, and they're facing the pressure of getting paid millions of dollars. It's a pro sport that happens to be on a college campus. In my mind there has always, always been a disjunction there -- coaches making millions of bucks, players making nothing. It didn't sit right with me, particularly knowing that a few of those really big-time players were generating a lot of that revenue. It never seemed equitable to me."

Bobby Couch

Bobby Couch

May 23, 2022

After spending 17 years turning Clemson's major-gifts operation from basically nothing into a national force, Bobby Couch decided to leave IPTAY and preside over the Tigers' NIL collective.

As the executive director of TigerImpact, Couch reflects on what went into his move to this new endeavor and how he is wrapping his arms around the fast-moving world of NIL.

Couch says what makes this initiative special is its emphasis on charity; recently Will Shipley took the $10,000 check he received from NIL and immediately donated it to a Charlotte-area hospital.

Couch also reminisces about developing a close relationship with Dabo Swinney through weekday pickup basketball games on campus otherwise known as the NTBA (Noontime Basketball Association).

Couch spent years as the NTBA's commissioner, organizing the daily games that involved many prominent names who are now head coaches elsewhere.

Couch remembers Brent Venables crashing into him and leaving him with a black eye that he had to explain a couple days later when he spoke in front of a group of boosters before a Clemson football game.

 

Jack Leggett

Jack Leggett

May 5, 2022

Jack Leggett still hasn't gotten over the events that led to his firing in 2015 after 22 seasons at Clemson.

He also can't reconcile Clemson's lack of recognition for the long run of success achieved under his watch.

"It's like they've tried to erase what we did there," he said.

It's been almost seven years, but the wounds are still fresh for the 68-year-old Leggett as he recalls the final year of his tenure that ended abruptly when then-AD Dan Radakovich told him it was over.

Leggett said he received 600 text messages from all over after the parting, including from every head coach in the ACC and prominent baseball people all across the state of South Carolina.

One figurehead who didn't reach out was Ray Tanner. Leggett suggests Radakovich consulted with his AD counterpart at South Carolina before making the move to fire Leggett and hire current coach Monte Lee.

Leggett, who lives in Greenville, spends an hour-plus with the The Dubcast to share what he's up to now. It includes watching a lot of college baseball, including the program he used to coach.

 

 

 

 

Richard Gooch

Richard Gooch

April 1, 2022

Richard Gooch has served the Clemson community for more than two decades as a member of the city police department.

In January he suffered a heart attack, his second in 12 years, and almost lost his life. A week later, he lost his father to suicide.

Gooch joins the podcast to spread awareness about taking care of yourself, and about trying to spot the signs of severe depression in loved ones.

"I hope it helps someone," he said. "I messed up the first 47 years of my life, and now I have to earn the rest of it. I hope this can help someone, touch someone, and change somebody's life for the better."

Gooch lives in Clemson with his wife and 10-year-old daughter. He is the lieutenant of investigations and support services for the City of Clemson Police Department.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chase Brice

Chase Brice

March 17, 2022

Chase Brice was a savior of the 2018 national championship season when he came off the bench to lift Clemson to a come-from-behind win over Syracuse in Death Valley.

Having transferred to Duke and then Appalachian State, Brice joins the podcast to reflect on the past two years of his life and what he left behind at Clemson.

Brice still has vivid memories of watching Trevor Lawrence for the first time in the spring of 2018 when Lawrence made it clear he was going to be an instant superstar.

Brice also recalls the agonizing few days after the coaches made Lawrence the starter four games into the 2018 season. Brice was extremely close with Kelly Bryant and remains so. He said he didn't believe Bryant was truly going to leave until he did.

Brice also shares some priceless stories about practice confrontations with Brent Venables (AKA Jimmy Greenbeans) when Brice was the scout-team quarterback and Venables was angry that Brice wasn't throwing it where he wanted.

Brice is preparing for his final season of college after starting all 14 games last season for Appalachian State and earning Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year honors.

 

Will Swinney

Will Swinney

March 11, 2022

After five years on the football team at Clemson, Will Swinney joins the podcast to talk about adjusting to the real world. For now that entails pursuing his MBA and working as an intern for a Greenville real-estate firm.

Swinney has vivid memories of some of the key junctures over the last 15 years.

Including 2006, when his dad came home and told his family he was going to give up coaching (his sons talked him out of it).

Including 2007, when Nick Saban called offering his father a job and Will begged him not to take it.

Including that day in 2008 when Tommy Bowden was out and Dabo Swinney was in.

"The next day I walk into my fourth-grade class and everyone is staring at me," he said.

Including that day in January of 2011 when his father made changes to his staff and Will realized he had to say goodbye to some of his good friends.

Will has been with his father through it all, including on recruiting trips and on the sideline from 2009 to 2016 when he was responsible for keeping the "Touch Chart," which tabulated the touches for the team's best offensive playmakers and made sure they were getting the ball enough (it started in 2009 when Dabo was determined to give C.J. Spiller the ball as much as possible).

Will grew up closely following recruiting and all coverage and commentary on Clemson football, which meant he had to learn how to handle criticism and outright meanness on message boards.

Will says the angriest his father ever was with him was when he was in kindergarten and decided to dial 911.

"That was a pretty bad whooping," he said.

Will said his favorite season of all was 2021 when the Tigers won six straight games to reach 10 wins for the 11th consecutive season.

 

 

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