Sacrifice and stress: How players handled season of COVID-19

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Notre Dame wide receiver Ben Skowronek (11) evades Clemson defensive tackle Tyler Davis (13)*during a carry in the second half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

The Saturday night after winning an afternoon home game is one of the best times to be a college football player.

Family and loved ones usually await with congratulatory hugs. Then there is a nice dinner, and maybe more celebrating with teammates and friends. Few things get a college town hopping like a football victory.

But not this season.

“I’d pretty much go home, lay on my couch, watch (video) cut ups of the game like two or three times. Probably go pick up some food," Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg said.

To play through a pandemic, players had to sacrifice much of their lives away from the game along with some of the best aspects of being part of a team.

To reach the playoff, No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Notre Dame had to go a combined 37-2 on the field and keep the virus at bay.

“It’s been incredibly challenging,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I just tell them, don’t give up what they want most for what they may want at the moment. It’s just really that simple. And the teams that do this the best and manage this the best, that’s who’s going to finish the best.”

Doing so required lots of COVID-19 testing, and the anxiety that comes with knowing the next test could be the one that puts a season on hold, and little time spent with anyone outside the team.