Following jokes that linked the Arkansas Razorbacks coaching vacancy to his fellow assistant coach, Clemson co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott received the 2017 Broyles Award on Tuesday at the Marriott Hotel in Little Rock..
Elliott is the second consecutive Clemson assistant to win the award that honors college football's top assistant coach. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables won the award last year, and he's been linked recently to the vacant University of Arkansas, Fayetteville head coaching position.
The Tigers will play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day in one College Football Playoff semifinal.
"It means so much because for me, football saved my life," said Elliott, whose offense averages 35.2 points per game. "Overcoming a lot of adversity as a child, I ran to the game of football. I ran to sports, and it was the coaches who had an impact on me and encouraged me, kept me motivated and kept me from going down the wrong path."
Elliott briefly lived on the streets of Los Angeles with his mother and younger sister, according to ESPN, and he was in the car when his mother, Patricia, died in a wreck when he was 9.
He walked onto the Clemson football team in 1999 and became a starting wide receiver and team captain by his senior year. Elliott was named the 22nd Broyles Award winner after 17 years of coaching.
"I'm still trying to let it soak in," he said. "Never did I start out as a coach to accumulate accolades and awards. It is nice to be recognized as one of the best amongst your peers, but it's not about me. I couldn't be here without the guys that I have in that offensive staff room, the players that we have on that team, my former players, my former bosses. ... I'm extremely humbled right now."
It was the first time in the history of the award that assistant coaches from the same program won in consecutive years.
Venables, as is tradition, returned to Little Rock as the most recent winner.
"I think [Clemson head] Coach [Dabo] Swinney has done an incredible job of creating a vision for us to follow," Venables said, "and obviously Tony's done an incredible job of doing just that, and it's led to a great deal of success on the field. It says we've got some great players and a great team of people that are committed to the vision."
In a span of two seasons, Clemson has won a national championship and two Broyles Awards.
"The biggest thing is that's just confirmation of the culture and the environment that we have in place," Elliott said. "We don't do anything for the awards. We do it for being the best version of ourself, and it's refreshing and encouraging when the outside world does recognize what we're doing at Clemson."
After Venables briefly spoke at the podium in the ballroom of the Marriott, David Bazzel, the creator of the Broyles Award, offered a joke.
"Twenty-one years as an assistant, 24 bowl games, won more than 10 games 17 times, coached in five national championships," Bazzel said. "Boy, if I was an AD I sure would want to talk to you."
Claps, whoops and whistles followed.
"I'm kidding!" Bazzel said. "I'm kidding!"
The jokes came a day after Venables said during an appearance on the radio show Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly that his representatives have been contacted by Arkansas during its search for a head coach.
When asked by an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter whether anything had progressed with his representatives, Venables did not expand.
"I'm going out to recruit for Clemson tonight," he said.
Even Gov. Asa Hutchinson offered a quip when he spoke at the beginning of the ceremony.
"David, would you mind holding my phone in case Chancellor [Joe] Steinmetz and the board of trustees call?" Hutchinson said.
The award ceremony was the first since its namesake and former Arkansas head coach and athletic director Frank Broyles died in August from complications of Alzheimer's disease.
Broyles' daughter, Betsy Broyles Arnold, and granddaughter, Molly Arnold, presented the award as representatives of the Frank & Barbara Broyles Foundation.
The foundation, which fights Alzheimer's disease, partnered with the award in 2016.
"You're a part of our family," Molly Arnold said. "For the last two years, got to spend time and get to know everyone that's been involved, and this is a team. This is a family. Alzheimer's affects all of us, whether it's directly or indirectly."
The four other finalists were Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele; Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh; Central Florida offensive coordinator Troy Walters; and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard. Steele did not attend.
"I wish Coach Steele was here," Walters said. "I want to pick his brain a little bit. We do play them in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Try to find out some tips and see if we can have a chance."
Elliott, Venables and Clemson will play Alabama in college football's postseason for the third consecutive season.
"Very excited, 'cause 'best' is the standard," Elliott said. "For a long time, Alabama has been the standard in college football. And to have an opportunity to play them again, it seems like this is just what we do. This is the third year in a row, and now it's the expectation. You win the ACC championship, you have an opportunity to play Alabama."
Broyles Award winners
YEAR COACH, SCHOOL
2017 Tony Elliott, Clemson
2016 Brent Venables, Clemson
2015 Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
2014 Tom Herman, Ohio State
2013 Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State
2012 Bob Diaco, Notre Dame
2011 John Chavis, LSU
2010 Gus Malzahn, Auburn
2009 Kirby Smart, Alabama
2008 Kevin Wilson, Oklahoma
2007 Jim Heacock, Ohio State
2006 Bud Foster, Virginia Tech
2005 Greg Davis, Texas
2004 Gene Chizik, Auburn
2003 Brian VanGoder, Georgia
2002 Norm Chow, Southern Cal
2001 Randy Shannon, Miami
2000 Mark Mangino, Oklahoma
1999 Ralph Friedgen, Georgia Tech
1998 David Cutcliffe, Tennessee
1997 Jim Herrmann, Michigan
1996 Mickey Andrews, Florida State
Sports on 12/06/2017
Print Headline: Help easy to find: Clemson boasts second winner in a row