Monday, January 16, 2017


Have you ever had one of those moments that in the middle of it, you stop and realize that this is a story you're going to tell your future kids one day?

I had a moment like that last Monday night.

So back story: part of the reason I decided to come to Clemson (aside from stellar location, gorgeous campus, and top notch academics, of course) was that it is a GREAT football school. Being a cheerleader for the better part of my life, I have always liked being around football and schools with lots of spirit. Ultimately the size and spirit of Clemson is what lead me to choose it over my second choice, which was a much smaller Division 2 school.

Over the past three years, I have gotten to watch some amazing football games. Freshman year was a little rocky with our inconsistent quarterback and inability to stand up against some of the great teams like Georgia and Florida State, but I got to watch as the Tigers broke the University of South Carolina's seven year winning streak in the Palmetto Bowl, our rivalry game. Sophomore year, football was amazing. We went undefeated in regular season, beat Florida State finally, defeated Notre Dame during the pouring rain of a hurricane (without a doubt the most exciting football game I have ever been to, totally worth the cold I got after), beat South Carolina again, became ACC champions, celebrated making it into the College Football Playoffs with a massive pizza party in the stadium, and took on the Almighty Alabama in the National Championship. Unfortunately, we lost.

This year, we came back with a vengeance and so did every opponent we faced. Whether it was our cockiness after being #2 in the country, or the other schools' desire to dethrone the team that did so well the year before, I don't know, but almost every game was close....very close. Friends joked that Clemson athletics needed to pay for the anxiety medication they would be needing after some of our really close calls - like against Louisville, where we scored two touchdowns in the last seven minutes of the fourth quarter to come from behind and win or against North Carolina State, where their kicker missing a field goal with no time left kept the game tied to go into overtime and we were able to score. See how we were kept on the edge of our seats?

After losing to Pittsburgh in  November, everyone thought we were done for. What kind of team chokes in an easy game like that? I think it was just over-confidence catching up to us. The Tigers came back to show we weren't out yet by winning our final two regular season games and securing the ACC title to land a spot as the second seed in the College Football Playoffs for the second year in a row. On New Year's Eve, we defeated Ohio State 31-0, despite the Buckeyes being favored to win. 

So that brings us to Monday night. The College Football National Championship. A rematch between my beloved Tigers and the Alabama Tide. I only wish I had been lucky enough to be in Tampa for the game, but I was pretty happy where I was, standing in the middle of College Avenue - the main downtown street in Clemson - in the freezing cold, watching the game on big screens setup in the street with my boyfriend, one of my closest friends, and tons of fellow Tigers. We knew going in that Alabama was likely going to win. No one beats Nick Saban and the Tide. And it started off not looking so good. Alabama got up 14-0. The Tigers scored in the second quarter, once in the third, and at the start of the fourth, but were still trailing. Then, with four and a half minutes left, we got another touchdown. We were beating Alabama.

The crowd downtown had dwindled around halftime. Understandable, considering it was below freezing and our prospects didn't look good there for a while. But all during the second half, as the Tigers continued to show that we were still in the fight, the crowd grew. By the time we were leading the game, the street was nearly packed. The energy was electric. The Tigers were up. We were going to show all the naysayers that Clemson has a great football program that shouldn't be questioned. Then Alabama scored again to take back the lead. I have never felt a collective mood of a group change so quickly. That was it. The end. Tide wins again. There was no way that with two minutes left we would be able to secure the lead to win the game. 

But the Tigers drove on. And with every gain, the crowd in the street of downtown Clemson, seven hours away from where the game was taking place, got more and more excited. With literally seconds left in the game, the Tigers were yards away from the goal line. Back in Clemson, we were all holding our breath. Could we do it? Could we dethrone the Tide? Winning felt so close, but we didn't want to jinx it. Then it happened. The touchdown catch to end all touchdown catches, in my opinion. Deshaun Watson and Hunter Renfrow made becoming national champions look easy. They started going crazy in Tampa and we went nuts in Clemson. Tears were streaming down our faces as we hugged everyone in sight, even people we didn't know. The Tigers reclaimed the lead with a second left. We had to wait to completely let loose and start celebrating since there was a challenge on the last play of the game. Then it was official. The Clemson Tigers won the National Championship!

I cried... a lot. Over a football game. Silly right? But it was so exciting to watch and there were so many emotions throughout the game that the only way to let them out was to cry. We cried and hugged and cheered and did the cadence count a million times. We jumped up and down with strangers and screamed that we were champions at the top of our lungs. It didn't matter that we were surrounded by strangers, we were all Clemson Tigers and had just shared the most surreal experience.

It's taken me a week to put everything I felt last Monday night into words, but I'm so glad I have because even if no one else reads this, I want to remember what it felt like to be a part of the 2016 National Championship win. Football talk definitely won't be the norm on here, I'm still just so excited about it.

I hope your Monday is going well!