Looking back through my lens as a parent, it’s difficult to understand why my father allowed it–
Me going to an out-of-state college four years, especially in light of what influenced my decision:
It was only 90 minutes from home.
I loved the Tiger paws dotting the highways leading into campus.
It was not where my sister – 16 months my senior with a shadow that shrouded me for 18 years – went to college.
Oh, sure, I probably gave a more intelligent explanation when asked, but those were the real (now mortifying) reasons. Of course, my Grand Plan included me returning to my hometown to attend the University of Georgia my sophomore year, so it’s not like I set out to break the bank.
Daddy had wanted me and my siblings to have a “true college experience” away from home our freshman year, and apparently I wanted him to pay dearly for it. It’s not like we were spoiled – it was rare for us to ask for extras, and we all worked as soon as we could to earn spending money – but I still can’t believe my gall to think it was okay. At best I was insensitive to the cost differential between in- and out-of-state tuition, and at worst, invoked some sense of entitlement.
My collegiate decision had nothing to do with academics. Clemson didn’t even have the major I was interested in so I had to chose something close.
I can think of no other more shallow or immature decision made my entire life.
My husband is quick to remind me it worked out pretty well, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Monday night in a ferocious contest, Clemson’s #1-ranked, 14-0 football team, played for the National Championship. Though they didn’t come away with the win, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of or happier for my personal association with the school. From underdogs to wonder cats, Clemson has endeared us all.
In full disclosure, I’m not a general football fan; it’s team specific and I only care about a few. Having grown up in Athens, GA, I can’t ignore my long-standing affection for the Georgia Bulldogs, and with my youngest there now I, once again, have a vested interest (I’m still incensed they ran off Coach Mark Richt; he is as fine a man as they come, concerned about developing his players as good men as much as he cares about winning…but that’s a rant for another time).
Here’s why the Tigers are still #1 to me:
1) Quarterback Deshaun Watson. J’adore a good story, and that’s exactly what Deshaun brings along with his cool composure under pressure, wicked passing precision, and the Eye of the Tiger when reading and running the field. Of course, I’ve got near-family affection for this guy–he’s from the same hometown as my sister and her family, and they’ve long lauded his talent and character. There’s great reason former Clemson standout Steve Fuller graciously unretired his number 4 jersey for Watson (a story worth reading), and when you learn why Watson partners with Habitat for Humanity, you might just cry. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t become a fan of this kid, your heart might just be stone cold.
2) Dabo Swinney. I’ll be honest–at first Dabo’s wiles and ways didn’t win me over. Dork came to mind. We laughed and squirmed at those daffy dance moves. He seemed to wear an unattractive chip on his shoulder when interviewed, and lordy, the things that spilled out of his mouth made me shake my head. “Bring your own guts?” Seriously?
But while I was busy being all judgy, a catch-phrase was birthed in great affection. And the man and his team kept winning. Defying all the naysayers, mucking through rain, and despite the odds, Clemson. Kept. Winning. And then I bothered to learn more about Dabo’s remarkable story and he won me over. Don’t skip this one–Dabo leads by amazing example, and all parents would be privileged to have their football-playing sons to play under his leadership. He loves his team. He shares his faith. He means it when he says #ClemsonFamily, and I’d love to know him as friend.
3) Team Play and Resilience. Less than four minutes into Clemson’s season opener, leading receiver Mike Williams caught a four-yard pass, scored a touchdown…and suffered a small neck fracture when tackled and rammed into the goal post. Thankfully, it wasn’t a career-ending injury, but it wouldn’t be the last injury to an impact-player. Regardless, Clemson’s team rallied game after game, and everyone, together, found a way to win.
What is particularly exciting is how young this team is–as many as nine offensive starters will be returning for the 2016 season; we’ll lose a few more defensive players to the NFL. Going all the way back to pre-season, this was not the year Clemson was expected to do anything great because of its youth; next year was supposed to be The Year. Cannot wait to see!
4) Worst of Times, Best of Times. Didja see (or at least hear about) Andy Teasdall’s self-decided fake punt during the ACC Title Game against North Carolina? The only thing uglier than the punter’s bad decision was Coach Swinney’s post-play tirade. But in a beautiful tale of redemption, a fake punt play was called by coaches in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, and this time Teasdall delivered beautifully.
5) Coaching staff. I don’t know a lot about Clemson’s coaching staff, but the stories I do know make me proud. “The incredible underdog story of Clemson’s Tony Elliott” is an inspiring, heart-wrenching must-read whether or not you like football, sports, OR Clemson. And you’ll love this true tale of two Notre Dame midnight hitchhikers and their providential meeting with assistant coach Robbie Caldwell. Thankfully, it has a happy ending.
6) R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I know I’m showing my age, but I kept thinking of Rodney Dangerfield of the “I don’t get no respect” fame early in the Clemson season, what with all the predictions of “Clemsonning,” that somehow, some way, the Tigers would find a way to lose. But I’ll be darned if they refused to give in to all those haters by shutting them up win after win and re-defining Clemsonning. Clemson fans were treated to something very special this season–we saw a team finally come into its own and earn play by play and game by game the respect it deserved.
My husband and sons will totally roll their eyes that I’m writing a football post, but I have the pedigree: a) I grew up in Athens during the Dooley years, cheered with his daughters, and went to our high school homecoming dance once with his son; b) I was one of the first Georgia Girls, back before there was a former program or any kind of scandal…. c) I can remember sitting on The Hill, long gone now but a great memory for those lucky enough to experience simpler times. I can still remember the scent of sweat and alcohol, probably before I even knew what I was smelling.