We would like to welcome slclemons to the site, as he is our newest contributor, and this is his debut piece.

What actually is the Clemson family? Like you, I’ve always marveled at being a fan of such a unique program as Clemson. Some of us were born a Tiger, while others liked what they saw and made the decision to be a Tiger. Both are equally important and equally as welcomed.

After watching the LSU culture on full display Monday night, it started me thinking about the concept of family and more specifically, the Clemson family. How we are perceived nationally. It’s special to feel so close to folks you’ve never met, yet we all share a deep bond. That bond is Clemson.

Here’s a little incident that fits perfectly and explains my point. Back in the heat and humidity of early summer, I was traveling to my hometown in the Lowcountry when I had a flat tire. Nothing I couldn’t fix because I’d done it before, no problem. Well, there was a problem.

I had fallen several weeks earlier and fractured my left arm requiring surgery. That and the fact it was pouring rain made this more than a minor inconvenience. I was trying to think of who I could call for assistance on a country road, deep in Clarendon County, only to realize I had poor cell service and was unable to call anyone.

I thought, “What in the world am I going to do?” About that time, a truck pulled up behind me. As most Tigers, I proudly display my Tiger Paw decals on the back window and my Paw license plate on the front. Having seen these, this Good Samaritan stopped. After a few minutes of conversation and seeing my broken arm he kindly offered to change my tire.

When he finished, I offered him some money for his time and kindness, he graciously thanked me but refused. When I asked why, his response was simple, “You’re a Tiger, I’m a Tiger and we’re family. I’m glad to help.”

When you are born into a family, it’s connections are ready made, they’re just understood. That same type of connection is what makes Clemson special, really special. A young man, helping an older man, whom he had never met, change a tire in the middle of a pouring rainstorm because of a paw. A bond…. Think about that, the power of the paw is real, and it’s a symbol of something even more powerful, the Clemson Family.

In all of my travels to games away from Clemson over the years, seeing fellow Tigers wandering around was welcoming, familiar. We would talk, without that awkwardness of talking to “strangers,” because we wore orange. As we’d turn to leave we would let out a loud “Go Tigers!” Then, off to meet other Clemson folks in our path.

At home games, you can become a welcomed guest at most any tailgate just by walking by. It’s funny, visiting team’s fans are shocked at the kindness and generosity of Clemson fans, but honestly, we couldn’t think of being anything different. It’s in our DNA.

I’ve posted on social media about my reaction while singing our Alma Mater. I can rarely get through singing half without a huge lump forming in my throat, and wiping away tears of sheer love and joy for this special place. Other fellow Tigers say they have the same reaction. Each time I sing it, I think about my father, patiently teaching me every word, sharing with me just the right moment to raise my hand and wave.

I am forever grateful for that memory, it’s priceless and forever. Our family, as all healthy, happy families, is growing daily. In that growth, we become stronger, and more passionate about that which binds us… Clemson. It’s a special place that we all call “home” and when we’re not physically there, our spirit and heart are, never to leave, ever.

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