Greenville native A.J. Gardner had always dreamed of one day playing for the Clemson Tigers.
A year ago, he got that chance — although not in the way he’d originally envisioned.
The Disney original move “Safety,” which tells the story of Clemson football player Ray McElrathbey, premiered on the Disney+ streaming service in December, and viewers might be able to spot Gardner as one of the athletes out on the field.
Gardner has always been a Tigers fan (he even has an old photograph of him as a young kid posing with Dabo Swinney).
Although he has now come to terms with the fact that he’ll never be an official member of the Tigers roster — a brutal hamstring injury during his sophomore year of high school dashed his college football dreams — the chance to act in the movie afforded him the surreal experience of going out on Frank Howard Field at Memorial Stadium in full gear.
“I was excited to get to be on the Clemson field and do what a Clemson football player would do,” Gardner told Community Journals after the film had finished shooting.
Gardner, who attended Gilbert High School in Arizona but was originally from Greenville, had never considered the world of acting until he heard about a Disney movie being filmed in Clemson.
“So I emailed Nate Scott, the casting director, to see if I could be an extra,” Gardner said.
Eventually Gardner heard back with an offer for him to play one of the football players in the movie, and the experience has given him the connections and motivation to dive deeper into the world of filmmaking.
“I plan on auditioning for more roles and being active in the acting community,” Gardner said. “My family is very supportive of the decision I have made.”
“Safety” is streaming now on Disney+.