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.
I’m a Tech grad, and I adore Clemson. That is something I never thought I’d say! My little crush started a couple of years ago when we took our four kids to Death Valley to watch the Tech-Clemson game. There we were, six gold-clad fans in the middle of a sea of orange. And those fans could not have been nicer. Orange and purple everywhere, from the sea of campers outside the stadium to our seats waaaaaaay up high. We had so much fun that (I’m embarrassed to admit) we were even singing C-L-E-M-S-O——-N! at the end of the game. What a fun day.
And then they hired Dabo. Oh, how I love that man. He is unapologetically dorky and honest and full of love for his players and his God. What a blessing those boys have to play for such a man. And what a model of a great coach for high school coaches around the country. My oldest son plays football for a Dabo-esque coach whom I adore. This is the kind of man that makes football worth playing.
And I’m so glad I’m back to reading blogs on a laptop so that commenting is easy!
Cheryl!!! Your comment made my day! Truly, it’s so fun to hear your perspective and for you to share your experience at Clemson :). So, so funny that y’all were even cheering (whether or not you meant it 😉 ) by the end of the game. Thanks for bringing lots of smiles. SO grateful, too, for your time in reading!
I’m not a football fan at all! I did watch some of the game Monday night. I was rooting for Clemson. I wanted ACC to win out!! The whole Clemson team seemed nice!
Thanks for your great thoughts! I can’t wait to sit down and follow all the links to the stories you are referring to. UGA is my first love, but Clemson is right up there, also, for too many reasons to go into here.
Enjoy your blog!
Leslie, I promisepromisepromise you will not be disappointed to read ANY of the links I’ve share–all of them?? I don’t think I’ve ever read so many football-related articles before, but like I keep saying (sorry, broken record), I’m drawn to the STORY behind the story, and Clemson’s season is rife with them. Thank you, too, for not only reading, but commenting–those are like little paychecks for my time :).
Hey Robin! Just stumbled upon this post, and I must say I’m thrilled to see such a great read about our beloved Tigers! Couldn’t have said it better myself; and you are spot-on about Dabo and the entire coaching staff. They are awesome! The things that Collins has learned in his 5 seasons on the team have changed, challenged and enhanced his life in ways that will be seen for a long, long time. Those men honestly love the boys – not just the stars, but all of them. Although Collins was a reserve player, he has been praised and honored in more ways than I could ever imagine. Dabo takes a personal interest in all of his players, he is genuinely interested in their lives, he cares deeply for them….and it shows. I will forever be grateful to him for giving Collins a chance to be a part of such a wonderful program, and honestly my heart is breaking now that it is all over. What a time to be a Tiger!! Thanks so much for sharing!!
Sandra!!! LOVE that you found this, but more so that you COMMENTED!! We always look for Collins–Tad spots him usually before I do :). I saw a video clip where Dabo mentioned him specifically, and I thought, “I remember changing his diaper…!” 🙂 Not sure HE’D appreciate that! Love hearing your perspective as a football mom, and confirming what we have observed from a distance.
Hope all is well with you and yours–my kids still sing-song our old phone message, “Robin Dance and Sandra Mauuuuldin” 🙂
Hi Robin, so enjoyed reading this post about our wonderful Tigers (class of ’87 here)! Our oldest son is a senior there this year – what a great year to be a Tiger indeed! You and I connected a few times at an Allume conference a few years ago and I have enjoyed returning to read your blog from time to time.
I just happened to see your IG post today—am saying a prayer now for your loved ones and whatever you all may be facing.