Happy Thanksgiving, Clemson style

by - Senior Writer -
Hopefully Death Valley will be at capacity next season.
Hopefully Death Valley will be at capacity next season.

There is a lot to be thankful for, at least from a Clemson perspective, this Thanksgiving Day.

Early this morning, with the leaves and ground still wet from last night’s rain, I took my two-year-old Eli out for a drive just to get the day started. As we usually do, because we live so close to campus, we wound up driving through the empty streets.

Death Valley soon appeared in the windshield and I smiled (I always do) when the upper decks appeared above the trees. I can’t believe the last home game of the season is this Saturday, and even though it’s been strange and I’ve missed seeing people I normally see and operations have been on the skinny, I am thankful we had football.

A group of the media stood together outside of Clemson’s football facility last March, waiting on players who had performed in the Tigers’ NFL Pro Day to come out for interviews. TigerNet’s Brandon Rink was at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro waiting for Clemson to take on Florida St. My phone pinged, and it was Brandon saying that the tournament had been canceled and he was coming home.

Several of us looked at each other and said, “See you at some point. But it won’t be soon.” We knew baseball would go away, spring practice would end, and we would have a summer to contemplate the next time we would see a sport in person. As it turned out, it would be September.

In the interim, there were a lot of days spent wondering if there would even be a college football season. I wanted one to happen, in the worst way, as long as the conferences could come up with a way for it to be played as safely as possible. If you listened to the national media and the talking heads throughout June and July and even the early part of August, there was no way a season was going to happen. My sources in the ACC, however, told me different and I held out hope.

The Big Ten canceled its season and the Pac-12 followed, but the rest of the leagues held firm, and eventually those two would decide to have a season of sorts. Yes, it’s weird and rivalry games have disappeared, and it’s college football.

I am hoping that Saturday I will make the drive from Pendleton to Clemson and watch the Tigers take on Pitt in person. It’s a final chance to see players like Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne and many others in person in the Valley. Seeing the seniors at the top of the hill is always an emotional event. And this is a good time for the Tigers to get back on the field.

There was the loss at Notre Dame, the open date, and then the postponement/cancellation at Florida St. This is a team that is ready to play. I asked head coach Dabo Swinney after Wednesday’s practice if he had the sense they were just itching to play, he smiled and said yes. It’s been a long three weeks since the loss to the Irish, and it’s been filled with sound bites and hot takes from the head coach.

Just my two cents – yes Swinney is mad about the FSU game, but this is classic Dabo. The focus was on his offensive line and the loss to Notre Dame, and it all came on the heels of everyone wondering where Clemson’s “chip” would come from. It’s obvious this program has a ton of respect nationally, the loss to Notre Dame meant a drop from No. 1 in the AP Poll to just third in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. Swinney loves to play the underdog card, and while he plays the “aw shucks” coach and has other fan bases shaking their collective heads, he’s always a step ahead of everyone.

Now that national media is attacking him. Breathless reporters are slamming his reaction. He doesn’t care. Now he’s rallied his troops – more than one player said this week they have his back and appreciate him taking up for them – and they have that chip heading into the last part of the season.

Yes, we have a lot to be thankful for today. Spend it with your loved ones and embrace every moment. We’ve learned that through all of this. Embrace it all.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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