College Sports

Clemson running back Wayne Gallman balancing grit with discretion

This concept of saving his body is still a little foreign to Clemson running back Wayne Gallman.

Clemson sat Gallman out of a recent victory against Wake Forest just to make sure his sprained ankle received plenty of rest. By the description of both Gallman and coach Dabo Swinney, he could have played and certainly wanted to play.

But there are bigger games ahead, including a possible berth in the four-team national playoffs, and that’s how important Gallman has become to the Tigers’ immediate future.

“Back in high school if you were injured, you still played. There were times I should have sat out and I still played,” Gallman said, recalling his high school days in Loganville, Ga. “I’ve always had that mentality. I have a grit about myself. I’m always going to try to play and help my team win.”

Entering Saturday’s ACC championship game against North Carolina at Bank of America Stadium, Gallman has rushed for 1,132 yards and averages 5.3 yards per carry. Clemson’s offense has starred wide receivers the past few years – Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and injured Mike Williams – but the Tigers have always valued the running game.

Gallman and quarterback Deshaun Watson have that move-the-sticks consistency to extinguish the clock once the Tigers establish a solid lead.

He came back from the week off against Wake Forest refreshed and hungry. He gained 102 yards on 19 carries against South Carolina to help preserve a tighter-than-expected 5-point victory in Columbia.

Gallman played high school ball for Mickey Conn, who roomed with Swinney at Alabama. His coaches have impressed upon him that toughness is admirable, but with all the collisions a running back is exposed to, be wise about when to play and when to collect yourself.

“I’m learning to preserve my body, knowing that I don’t have to take as many (practice) reps because I’m trusted,” Gallman said. “I’m glad I’m where I’m at right now.

“I’m really not sore anywhere anymore. It was kind of fun (during the Wake game) to coach along the sidelines, to tell them if I saw something wrong. I could see from the outside, looking in, some spots I wouldn’t normally see.

“I wanted to play. That’s just me as a person. I’d never really been hurt in football and I knew I had to be smart. I wasn’t 100 percent.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell