Clemson offensive lineman uses hard times to inspire others

Updated: Dec. 3, 2016 at 7:54 PM EST
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CLEMSON, SC (WIS) - On Saturday night, we will find out if the Clemson Tigers will repeat as the kings of the Atlantic Coast Conference when they take on Virginia Tech for the conference title at 8 p.m.

Clemson's opportunity to win back-to-back ACC championships in Orlando for the first time in 28 years is special. Perhaps, it's extra meaningful for Tigers senior offensive lineman Jay Guillermo.

The first-team All-ACC selection nearly gave up football two years ago. By the end of his sophomore season, he began to battle depression. He worked his way through the darkness to find joy in playing the game he's always loved while inspiring others who fight depression.

"What's the point of having a story if you don't tell it?" Guillermo asked.

His journey took him away from the game he loved.  Between his sophomore and junior season, Guillermo left school a shell of his former self.

"I didn't know if he would ever play football again," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "I didn't know if I would ever see him again.  He was a lost broken young person."

"I was in a pretty dark place.  I kind of felt like I was on my own.  That I didn't have a place to talk about it.  It's something more people deal with than you think," Guillermo explained.

Depression began to cloud his world.  It happened after he broke his foot during the 2014 season, which forced him to miss games.  While he sat out, Guillermo gained weight and drank alcohol excessively.  He questioned everything around him, his worth, and even contemplated suicide. He returned home to Tennessee.

While away from the game, he found the light to escape his darkest times.

"It almost became like therapy to tell you all my story.  Hope others hear it so they can say if he can do it, so can I," Guillermo said.

"He's an inspiration to a lot of people.  I'm proud of him because he's used his struggles and he's taken that platform he has here to encourage others," Coach Swinney said.

More than a year after almost leaving the team he's always loved since childhood, Guillermo flourishes as a leader of the Tigers powerful attack.

"We don't have a better leader.  It's scary to know he was at the spot at one time," Coach Swinney said.

Coach Dabo Swinney said he's learned a lot about depression dealing with young people.  He says Guillermo's such an encouragement, because he shows you can get better and overcome it.

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