Bleeding Orange: Albert Shealy’s life-long dedication to Clemson football is unwavering
Chapin native has attended countless Tiger games, including ’81 Orange Bowl, several ACC title games
Chapin, SC (James Bowers) - In 1954, a ten-year-old boy named Albert Shealy found the love of his life. That was the year his father took him to Death Valley for the first time to see the Clemson Tigers take on Presbyterian College. In those days, attendance was a lot easier on the wallet. “It cost about ten cents to get in (Memorial Stadium).” Shealy said. Since that fateful day over 60 years ago, Shealy has attended nearly 1000 football games, including a 402 consecutive Clemson game streak from 1980 until the 2014 Orange Bowl. Shealy was recognized for this phenomenal dedication to Tiger football by the Lexington County Chapter of IPTAY, Clemson’s Athletic Booster Club.
It is loyalty rarely matched among sports fans. Shealy says he has seen the Tigers play in over 30 stadiums other than their home facility. This includes two in Tokyo, Japan, where the Tigers played in 1982 and 1991. The lifelong Chapin resident has been to venues as far flung as Boston College’s Alumni Stadium and Syracuse’s Carrier Dome in New York State. Shealy also has attended such memorable Clemson postseason games as the 1982 Orange Bowl, where the Clemson Tigers clinched the 1981 National Championship with a victory over Nebraska, and the infamous 2012 edition of that same game. In that game, the Tigers lost to West Virginia by a 70-33 count.
Shealy has seen the careers of many head coaches that include Frank Howard, Red Parker, Charley Pell, Danny Ford, Ken Hatfield, Tommy West, Tommy Bowden, and current Clemson head coach, Dabo Swinney. Shealy says one of his favorite players is Jule Wells, a running back for the Tigers during the 1960s. Shealy has also witnessed the play of legendary players such as Jeff Davis, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Brentson Buckner, Chester McGlockton, James Davis, CJ Spiller, Tajh Boyd, Deshaun Watson, and Ben Boulware. He also attended as Lexington County’s own Dalton Freeman set records for starting as center over the last decade.
Shealy has spent his entire life in the town of Chapin. He graduated from Chapin High School in 1963, when the school occupied a smaller building that later became Chapin Elementary School. Shealy himself had a decorated athletic career with the Chapin Eagles, lettering in football, baseball, and basketball during his time in school. He recalls his final football game with the Eagles in 1962. The Eagles traveled to Ridge Spring Monetta, and a Clemson scout was on hand to see one of that school’s players. Shealy says that after the final whistle blew, that same recruiter wanted to speak to him. He had been impressed with Albert’s play during that game as well. Shealy ultimately chose to forgo college in favor of entering the workforce. This decision led to a 21-year career with the Otis Elevator Company. This career was followed by lengthy stints with two South Carolina government agencies, the Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides, and the SC State Budget and Control Board. He finally retired in 2010.
Shealy, now 73, has been married for 52 years, and though he has no children of his own, his love for the Tigers has spread to his nephews. The majority of his family has always pulled for Clemson University, with one or two fans of the “bad guys” (aka the South Carolina Gamecocks) among the Shealy clan.
Shealy’s collection of memorabilia includes pictures with coaches such legendary tiger celebrities as coaches Danny Ford and Dabo Swinney. He also has the game ball from the 2007 South Carolina-Clemson game, which was Coach Tommy Bowden’s final contest in the Clemson-USC series.
Shealy says that if he doesn’t attend a Clemson game in person, he doesn’t watch it on TV. A man of great passion, he’s always feared he’d destroy a costly television in a moment of frustration. Shealy was asleep on the night of January 9. 2017, when he was jolted awake by his excited wife. She informed him that Clemson was leading Alabama in the CFP National Championship Game with one second to play. Shealy saw the recovery of the onside kick that enabled the Tigers to beat the Tide 35-31, and claim their first national title in 35 years.
Whether he plans to watch Monday’s Sugar Bowl, where Clemson will again take on Alabama for a shot at repeating as national champion, remains to be seen. Regardless of whether he witnesses in real time, it’s guaranteed that Shealy will have a strong reaction to the performance of the team he loves so dearly. For a man who has seen his Clemson Tigers play so many times, you can guess that there’s a little purple and an awful lot of orange in his blood!