THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Sports: Clemson fans prepare for football championship game
By Jason Lesley
Brent Jackson was 1 year old when Clemson’s football team defeated Nebraska for the national championship in the 1982 Orange Bowl.
He’s hoping to fulfill a lifelong dream to see the Tigers win again on Monday night and complete another perfect season with a victory over Alabama. He and his girlfriend, Lauren Burton, will be at the game in Glendale, Ariz.
“I hope it’s not another 34 years,” said Jackson, a 2003 Clemson grad who works for the Lachicotte real estate company. He and Burton, a 2009 Clemson graduate, saw the Tigers’ defeat Notre Dame, Florida State and the University of North Carolina in the ACC championship game. They watched Oklahoma fall in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve on television.
Near the end, one of Jackson’s friends asked if they were going to the championship game. “I was already on my phone booking airline tickets,” Burton said.
Glenn Cox, owner of Pawleys Island Pharmacy, drove to Miami with his wife and children for Clemson’s last football championship game after the 1981 season. They plan to fly to Arizona to again see the Tigers in person. “I’m just as excited this time,” Cox said.
Clemson started slowly and won some close games in 1981. Cox and his wife drove to New Orleans to see the Tigers play. “We barely beat Tulane,” he said, “and I was afraid we were not even going to have a winning season. Boy, was I wrong.”
Cox remembers Clemson being an underdog against Nebraska in the title game. “Back then,” he said, “my wife had an uncle who lived in Nebraska saying how bad they were going to beat us. He had to eat a lot of crow.”
Cox thought about going to the Orange Bowl for Clemson’s game against
Oklahoma but decided to take a chance and make reservations for Arizona in case the Tigers won. His faith was rewarded.
Joe Ellis of Pawleys Island was a sophomore offensive guard on Clemson’s national championship team. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said. Clemson’s football program has been on the upswing since Dabo Swinney was named head coach. “Dabo is doing an excellent job with the program,” Ellis said. “It’s time to get some respect.”
Waccamaw High School football coach Tyronne Davis, who played at Clemson, said the Tigers have a chance to win even though Alabama is a 5.5-point favorite in the game, according to odds makers. Clemson will likely be a sentimental favorite for most college football fans outside the state of Alabama, who have grown weary of coach Nick Saban’s “process” that has produced three national titles since 2009. Another thing going for Clemson is that Swinney played on Alabama’s 1991 national championship team coached by Gene Stallings. The ’Bama mystique won’t affect Dabo.
But Davis sees a way for Clemson to win in the X’s and O’s. First, quarterback Deshaun Watson must have success early in the game to give the Tigers some momentum. “The thing that Clemson does best will give Alabama fits,” Davis said. “Alabama has a hard time playing teams that spread the field. If Watson has a good game, I like our chances.”