Danny Ford: Coach, Legend, Farmer, Friend

As the father of Clemson football, in the modern era, Danny Ford embodies everything that’s good about Clemson Football.

He was a quiet, aww, shucks of a man. He was always kind and genial to all he met. The proof of the love the Clemson family has for Danny was on display in his 2013 induction to the Ring of Honor. Over time, the line became blurred between the Danny the coach and Danny the man. This personal story gives you a glimpse of the real Danny Ford. I hope you enjoy.

There are hats and then there is THE hat. You know that one that completes a desired look. THE hat would enter our world, hand delivered by a man that my daddy would share a special, meaningful friendship.

For a short while, my father operated two restaurants in two different places, that left Daddy to spend the weekdays alone. In our absence, he would use that time to enjoy one of his three great passions, fishing. The other two being family and football, specifically, Clemson football. He had a johnboat with an electric motor attached that would scoot him all over that lake in search of fish. This lake was loaded, he’d always find them.

One day he would meet someone that shared not only his passion for fishing but one of his other passions, Clemson football.

The owner of the restaurant was a college friend, BC Inabinet. He was a dynamic, self made, very successful man. More importantly, he was a kind and generous person to all those lucky enough to count him as their friend. Having been in the same company at Clemson A&M college, then a military school, they’d share a lifelong friendship. BC being successful, was a huge contributor to his and Daddy’s Alma Mater.

He ran in the highest circles within the Clemson world. One day, he would introduce Daddy to then, Head Football Coach, Danny Ford. Sharing mutual interests, Daddy and Danny would become good friends. In the offseason, Danny would many times, just come down to fish with Daddy. Now, I know, everybody claims to know “important people.” Daddy, the most unpretentious person God ever created, never sought such a friendship.

In Danny, Daddy met a good old country boy, a friend, a kindred spirit, that loved to fish. In Daddy, Danny found an easy going, heart of gold kinda fella. Daddy, never one to ask for much of others yet freely gave that which he had, coveted Danny’s orange, Clemson Block “C” hat. One day, both men having spent a day fishing, he casually mentioned to Danny that he loved the hat he was wearing. Danny explained it was a style unavailable for sale, it was made only for the coaching staff.

Uncharacteristically, Daddy asked Danny, where he might get one. Then and there, floating on that lake, fishing poles in hand, he took that hat off his head and gave it to Daddy. It was instantly a treasured gift. Like a child whose parents surprised him with a new bike, he was a happy man.

Funny thing, when Daddy and Danny spent time fishing they rarely, if ever talked football. With football being his profession, at times consuming his entire life, he needed a friend outside that three-ringed circus and in Daddy, he had found such a friend. Oh, how Daddy proudly sported that hat and those “in the know” could see this wasn’t just your average, run of the mill hat, it was different, special.

As life has a way of doing, situations happen, things and people move on and few friendships ever stay the same. Suddenly, Danny, at the pinnacle of his coaching success, left Clemson. In the absence of his fishing buddy, that hat became even a more precious treasure. That hat, THE hat, would always complete his look.

Like most of us men, he’d lose almost everything. Never confessing to losing it, always saying he had just “misplaced it.” So it was with that hat. Daily, we would have to all go on a search through the house, in the cars…everywhere until thankfully, we eventually found it.

I can’t tell you the number of times that hat floated in the Atlantic Ocean, put there by the wind, created by the boat cutting through the water. Each time, he’d stop the boat, reverse course and we’d search until we’d find it…we always did.

You have probably figured this thing out by now, the hat was more than just a hat. It was the outward, tangible symbol of something more, their friendship. One of the saddest sights I’ve ever seen was Daddy, floating single in that boat made for two, wearing that hat.

That’s, where their friendship was unique, it was one centered around who Danny was, not what he was. It was like seeing a little boy whose best friend had moved away from their neighborhood. One day he’s there, the next he’s gone….it was moving to see him then and now remembering it today, it’s even more so.

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