Tampa, Florida (Paul Kirby) – More than 35 years ago, in 1977, the Clemson Tigers faced off against the USC Gamecocks in Columbia, SC in the annual battle for SC’s football bragging rights. As a teenager, I sat in a living room in Chapin, SC with my father Chip Kirby, a huge Clemson fan if there ever was one, and watched the final minute ticking off the clock in a countdown to what seemed would be an especially painful Clemson loss.
In a last-ditch effort to prevent the walk of shame, with just 49 seconds left on the clock, Clemson’s quarterback Steve Fuller dropped back, threw a short 20-yard rocket of a ball to a receiver named Jerry Butler who made a diving backwards catch to score, giving the Clemson Tigers the win with a score of 31-27!
Pandemonium broke out with all Tiger fans across the state as Clemson’s coach Charlie Pell, who had started a tradition of handing out congratulatory cigars to his players after a win, passed out the smokes to the angst of the Gamecock players and faithful. Some of those Cocks team members had already started to show a huge audience, there in person and on television, t-shirts they were wearing under their jerseys that were imprinted with the slogan, "No Cigars Tonight." They stood in dismay as the Clemson Tigers took the trophy, and the cigars, back to Clemson that night.
My middle aged, somewhat overweight father, who had been glued to the television just like every other college football fan in the state, leaped from his chair, tossing a half-eaten bowl of popcorn in the air. He stepped on the tail of our dog who had been try to rest through the shouting and the veiled curses from my dad. The dog went howling, the popcorn decorated the room, my dad hooped and hollered, as “The Catch,” made football history in our state!
Last night, in Pelion, SC, another overweight, middle aged Kirby celebrated again! The dogs went running for cover, the popcorn fell to the floor, and the Clemson Tigers beat the Crimson Tide of Alabama, a college football dynasty in its own right, to bring home another National College Football Championship trophy again after 35 long years!!!
When all was said and done, the Clemson Tigers, the pride of our state in 2016, came out on top of the pounding pachyderms from Tuscaloosa, Alabama with a score of 35 to 31!!
The Tigers started slowly. Their quarterback, Deshaun Watson seemed rattled from the physical pounding. Their offensive line sputtered and leaked! But, as I said a moment ago, the felines from the foothills came out on top in the final second over the pounding pachyderms from Tuscaloosa, Alabama with a score of 35 to 31!!
When it was over and orange and purple confetti rained across the stadium in Tampa, both Clemson’s coach Dabo Swinney and their shining star quarterback Deshaun Watson, gave God the glory for the school’s second college football National Championship in its history!
In a post-game interview, Swinney told the ESPN commentator, “Only God can do this!” He went on to say, “8 years ago, it was my goal to put Clemson back on top and now it’s a reality!!” He told the world who was watching in reference to his team, "I told them always let the light inside of them be brighter than the light shining on them,” and last night they lived that mantra.
Swinney said that the win against Alabama was for all the teams from past years who had a part in building to their win last night; the teams who played a part in putting the gold in the hands of the felines from the northwest corner of our state.
Clemson’s phenom quarterback Watson also gave all the credit to God. “God put us here for a reason,” he told the millions who were tuned in for the heart-stopper across the globe. He also said that when Alabama went ahead in the fourth quarter he told his fellow players, “Let’s be legendary, let’s be great,” and they were!
I could talk all day about the game. I could talk about how it came down to the final seconds. I could talk about how Clemson once again battled back from a slow, sputtering start. I could talk about a catch that won it as a stadium, a state, and a nation went crazy! I could say it was absolutely the greatest game I have ever seen in my entire life, but who doesn’t know that!
Heck man, the Empire State Building in New York City, New York, was lit in orange and purple! The place went crazy! Heck the state went wild! The Clemson Tigers are once again the National Champions!
I’m sorry Frank Shumpert; I’m a huge fan and your friend Sheriff Koon, I love you like a brother Pastor Gene, but you stalwart Gamecock fans need to recognize that the Clemson Tigers are the National Champions once again!