Many Clemson fans have different memories of games over the years. There are numerous lists of the top games across the web. I’ve been a Tiger for the better part of my life and I can still remember listening to Clemson football games on an old, dirty, orange dial alarm clock radio at my Grandaddy Green’s Gulf Station on Main Street in our hometown of Turbeville, South Carolina.
Many of these games were seen through the voice of the late great Jim Phillips. Back then you didn’t have the internet to stream every game played. I, like many other Tiger fans, had the opportunity to enjoy the highs, as well as live through the lows over the years. Either in person or through all of the technology we now have.
Not every fan looks at the exact same games that others do as their favorite, that is understandable Here are a few of the memories that this “Country Tiger” has enjoyed throughout the years.
10. Georgia Tech 2006: I can still remember watching James Davis and C.J. Spiller go off against Georgia Tech on a Thursday night back in 2006. I can still remember watching C.J. Spiller juke two Yellow Jacket defenders out of their shoes en route to the end zone live, and hoping to get to the motel in time to see the replay.
9. West Virginia 1989: One of the better road games on my list would have to be the trip I was able to take with my cousin and a few family friends when we jumped into a Ford station wagon and traveled down to Jacksonville for the 1989 Gator Bowl. A game that none of us realized at the time, would be Danny Ford’s last as head coach. The defense handled business and shut down an offense led by Major Harris.
8. Furman 1988: One game that will always bring back memories for any Tiger fan is that first trip up to Tigertown. That first time seeing the paws on the road leading in. The first chance to experience the team touching the rock and running down the hill at Death Valley.
That trip for me was back on September 10, 1988 when my cousin, Wayne McElveen, took this 13 year old country boy to his first game. It was like nothing I had ever seen and I knew that would definitely not be my last trip up there.
7. Florida State 2007: This game was special to me because I had a very good friend (more like a brother), Gerald “Petie” Witherspoon, who was a lifelong FSU fan. Petie was suffering from kidney disease and was going through dialysis three times a week.
He had never seen the Seminoles play live and we worked it out so he and I were able to go up and see them play on Labor Day in 2007. It was the ninth addition of the Bowden Bowl and the Tigers jumped out to a 21-0 lead. FSU then made a comeback but Clemson was able to hold on and get the win 24-18. My friend passed two years later.
6. Notre Dame 2015: This game was a wet and soggy game that we had no clue was being played in the “Thousand Year Flood.” It is where the term “BYOG” was born. We had gotten tickets well in advance and my Momma asked me over and over if I thought we should go up.
You’d think she would have known that you don’t ever ask me if we should go to a Clemson game. It was one of the best games I’ve experienced, even though my Momma, both of my brothers, a family friend, and I ended up getting stuck in a Columbia motel until the roads were cleared that following Monday.
5. Oklahoma 1989: Number five on my list is the 1989 Citrus Bowl. This game was special to me because it was my first ever trip out of SC without my parents. My Momma and Daddy surprised me on Christmas Day with my ticket and let me know that I would be riding down and staying with my Cousin Wayne.
This would be the first of many bowl trips that Wayne and I would take. Little did we know before the end of this trip, I would have all but about $50 stolen from me. However, we would see a great win by the Tigers. We were witnessing Barry Switzer’s final game as the Sooners head coach, and we then had to get money wired to us to get home.
4. Virginia 1991: This was one where the Tigers had to come back after getting down big to UVA, and at that time Clemson had never lost to the Cavaliers. They were in danger of getting that first L, but Ken Hatfield’s team was able to make the comeback and ended up with a 20-20 tie in the end. (Ugh)
3. UofSC 2016: No Clemson fan’s list would be complete without at least one game against SC. I have witnessed many, but the one that will always hold a special place in my heart will be the one in Death Valley back in 2016. Many might think it was because of the way the Tigers dismantled the Gamecocks, but it goes much deeper than that for this Tiger fan.
My 10 year old cousin, BJ Wilkes, who was on hospice due to a heart defect, had come up with a bucket list. One of the items on that list was that he wanted to see his favorite team, the Gamecocks, play the Clemson Tigers live. I started contacting people across the state and country trying to find that hard to get ticket.
We were soon contacted by a family that had just enough tickets to get this bucket list item checked off and even better, it was done in style with box seats. We also had another Tiger fan allow all of us that went to stay in her house for the weekend. Our Tigers did get the dominant 56-7 win, but it was more than that for me. As much as I wanted that win, on that night, it wouldn’t have hurt my feelings if they had not won. BJ died this past year after battling Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) for 13 years.
2. TCU 2009: The second best game on this Clemson fan’s list is actually one that went in the loss column for the Tigers. The TCU Horned Frogs came to Death Valley to take on the Tigers back on September 26, 2009 and they came away with the win. Many have asked me, with as many games as I’ve attended, how can a loss be this high? It’s really easy.
I’ve told many times about how much my Grandaddy Green loved the Tigers, and how he taught me that very same love over the years. Well, this was the one and only Clemson game that he ever attended and the look on his face as we drove into Tigertown is a look I’ll remember as long as I live.
1. At the top of this Tiger fan’s list is a game I did not even get to attend but still got the most enjoyment out of. The January 11, 2017 Natty win over Alabama. It was the last national title the Tigers won before my Grandaddy left us. We watched it cheering, yelling at the refs, and enjoying every minute of it. I will remember that night, and into the early morning hours of the next day, as vividly as anyone could. The stories we shared, and the enjoyment we got, could never be erased.
Again, we Tiger fans all have memories that will last forever. Good or bad, and not all fans will look at the same games the same way. One thing is for sure, whether we won, lost, or even tied, there is a story behind every game. Each one helps to write the chapters of many Tigers’ lives, just like they have mine. So while we are entering the uncharted waters that we are now upon, take time to think back on the memories you have made over the years as a Clemson fan.