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Taisun Phommachanh, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in April's Orange and White Spring Game, is officially the backup quarterback for Clemson on Saturday when they face No. 5 Georgia.
“He’s available, he’s ready to go,” noted Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney a week ago of Phommachanh 's status. “Practiced every day, so excited about having him back."
Before the injury, Phommachanh was set to back up starter D.J. Uiagalelei with Trevor Lawrence off to the NFL. It was his time to see more playing time and be the next man up.
So why now? Why such a freak injury with less than 4 minutes remaining on a running clock in a Spring Game?
Did Phommachanh ask why?
"Nah, that can't be my mindset when I go through adversity," said the redshirt sophomore. "I say why not me. I mean, why not go through adversity it's not going to do nothing but sharpen you up, make you a better man, make you a better person, and it builds character. So I'm grateful that I went through everything I did, like for real."
Dealing with injuries is always tough for athletes and especially one that normally takes approximately a year to recover completely. For Phommachanh, he didn't have to go far for guidance and support through the process.
"I talked to God, man," said Phommachanh. "I talked to God every day. He kind of anchored me down through it. He kept me stable. He kept my mind right. He kept my body right. He kept me right. So yeah, that's who I really connected with through this process."
Faith has always been important to Phommachanh and it remained even though he had every reason to have doubts or a shift in his thoughts starting in late December.
Phommachanh's family home in Connecticut burned on Dec. 21 only a day after his grandmother, his dad's mother, passed away. Money was raised for the family of seven through a GoFundMe account and the family has a new home.
"Nah, it wasn't hard," he said of dealing with the misfortunes. "It wasn't hard at all."
"Growing up, my mom, my dad, and my whole family– we were spiritual people. It was never having no doubt, no faith in God. It was never that. I always had faith in him. I always had trust in him. I know that whatever he has planned will work out. I have full faith in him."
To return from an injury as serious as a torn achilles and having so much happened at home, Phommachanh needed the mental toughness, the outside support, and of course, the faith, but none of it mattered if he didn't have the work ethic to endure a physical rehab.
"I had to really put in the hard work, put in the extra work, even when the times you don't want to do it," said the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder. "You got that goal in the back of your head that keep pushing you. It took a lot of strength work, a lot of treatment, a lot of rehab. But I think at the end of the day, it was all worth it."
His return to action is seen as miraculous and almost inconceivable.
"It’s unbelievable. It’s amazing," said Swinney about Phommachanh defying the odds to play in the opening game.
Phommachanh said his accelerated return may be 'breaking news to everybody' but he knew he would be back. Not only is he back but according to him, the entire experience has made him a better quarterback, person, and put him in a better place mentally. And he owes it all to God.
"Like I said before, I connected with God through this injury," stated Phommachanh. "So all the praises to him? He made me a better man. He made me have better character. He made me a better quarterback. My confidence level went up. I know what I'm doing with the offense. So I'm just confident [with] what I'm doing that's all."
Phommachanh has yet to have any game snaps beyond mop-up duty in his two-year career. In seven games, he completed 11-of-29 passes for 73 yards and rushed for 81 yards over 86 snaps.
Honestly, he hasn't always looked sharp in past games, and he started the spring game in the same fashion before leading the White team to a victory. Phommachanh's final pass to tight end Davis Allen set up the offense for running back Phil Mafah's game-clinching touchdown run.
He finished the game 14-of-25 for 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception and was the best version of himself to date in the fourth quarter.
By all accounts, Phommachanh is ready. He's ready to compete physically, mentally, and whenever he is called on to step in for Uiagalelei.
"I mean that's something we always talk about in the quarterback room, is sense of urgency," replied Phommachanh when asked if he is prepared to be QB1 if circumstances call for it. "So I'm just one play away like you said. So I got to be ready. I got to prepare as if I'm the starter, and I got to be ready to go win a game. So that's the role I'm taking."