College Sports

August 23, 2014

50 reasons to love the Tigers

Howard's Rock, the 1981 national championship, the 'Tiger Rag' fight song and much more.

1. HOWARD’S ROCK

First mounted on a pedestal at the top of the hill in the East end zone in the 1966 season, the rock came to coach Frank Howard from Death Valley, Calif., courtesy of a Tiger fan. It became a school tradition before a game against Wake Forest when Howard told his players, “If you're going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock. If you're not, keep your filthy hands off it.” After that victory, the Tigers have been rubbing it ever since for good luck.

2. ESSO CLUB

You can’t fill up your car there anymore, but you can still put a Tiger in the tank. Clemson fans like to fill up on food, drinks and school spirit there before and after games. Football broadcaster Brent Musberger made the former gas station famous nationally by discussing his visits on-air whenever he came to town. It has become one of the most-renowned college-town sports bars.

3. 1981 NATIONAL CHAMPS

This epic season ended with a 22-15 win against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, as the Tigers went 12-0 to claim the national championship after being voted No. 1 in the AP and UPI polls. In his third season as coach, Danny Ford guided a team that was sparked by quarterback Homer Jordan and wide receiver Perry Tuttle on offense and linebacker Jeff Davis and safety Terry Kinard on defense.

4. WILLIAM “THE REFRIGERATOR” PERRY

The first three-time All-American for Clemson football, Perry grew into a legend thanks to immense athletic skills that merged perfectly with an oversized body and personality. Former teammate Ray Brown gave Perry the nickname when noting his size while riding next to him in an elevator. A first-round draft pick of the Bears, the defensive lineman would go on to play 10 years in the NFL but was most famed for scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl as a fullback.

5. BANKS MCFADDEN

The only Clemson athlete to earn All-American honors in football and basketball in the same calendar year (1939) and have his jersey retired in two sports, McFadden also led the Tigers to state championships in track twice in his three years on the team. Elected to the National Football Hall of Fame in 1959, he is a charter member of the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame and South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame as well. He coached the defensive backs at Clemson for 26 years and also served as basketball coach from 1947-56.

6. DEATH VALLEY

Memorial Stadium might be the official name of Clemson’s home, but it’s best-known by its nickname of Death Valley, which originated with the late Presbyterian coach, Lonnie McMillan, after his teams couldn’t win there in the late 1940s. In 1974, the playing surface was named Frank Howard Field for the legendary coach, but it still provides a strong home-field advantage with the large orange-clad crowds.

7. DANNY FORD

The coach of the 1981 national championship team, Ford went 96-29-4 in 11 seasons while leading the Tigers to five ACC championships and six bowl victories. The Alabama native, who played for Bear Bryant in college, set a standard at the school that elevated Clemson’s national profile, but NCAA investigations during his tenure ultimately led to him parting ways with the school in 1990.

8. SAMMY WATKINS

The big-play explosiveness of Watkins started early in his career, as he earned AP first-team All-America honors as a freshman. He would finish with 240 receptions for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns, all marks that top Clemson career lists. He helped the Tigers to a 32-8 mark in three seasons before being picked No. 4 by the Buffalo Bills in the 2014 NFL draft.

9. FRANK HOWARD

Regarded as a legendary figure in Clemson football history, Howard, who passed away in 1996, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989 after compiling 165 wins over 30 seasons as coach. He won eight conference titles and had six top-20 seasons while becoming famous for his folksy manner and quick wit.

10. RUNNING DOWN THE HILL

It’s been called the most exciting 25 seconds in college football. But this tradition started out more practically. The team dressed at Fike Field House and ran from there to the gate and down the grassy hill onto the field at the start of each game. Now the players must bus from the locker rooms in the opposite end zone to make their dramatic entrance.

11. ROD GARDNER

The wide receiver caught 166 passes in his Clemson career but none was bigger than his 50-yard reception against South Carolina in the 2000 game. It gave the Tigers a first down at the USC 10-yard line with eight seconds to play and set up Aaron Hunt’s game-winning field goal in the 16-14 victory. USC fans still insist Gardner pushed off to make the grab, but Clemson fans and the officiating crew saw it the other way.

12. RING OF HONOR

This recognition is the highest honor a Clemson student-athlete can receive. Recipients must be a member of the Clemson Hall of Fame, have earned an undergraduate degree, and made a significant contribution to the heritage of Tiger athletics. Honorees have their jersey retired.

13. STEVE FULLER

The two-time ACC player of the year in 1977 and 1978, Fuller started 27 consecutive games at quarterback for Clemson. An academic All-American as well, Fuller later played 10 seasons in the NFL. The second athlete in Clemson history to have a number retired (No. 4), he also was part of the inaugural Ring of Honor class with Frank Howard and Banks McFadden.

14. THUNDER AND LIGHTNING – JAMES DAVIS AND C.J. SPILLER

From 2006 to 2008, the tandem of running backs provided plenty of thrills for Clemson with their varying styles. The hard-running Davis picked up the tough yards on the way to a pair of 1,000-yard campaigns, while the electrifying Spiller used to his speed to pile up yardage and touchdowns on the ground, catching passes and in the return game before departing as the school’s career leader in all-purpose yards.

15. JEFF DAVIS

A captain of the 1981 national championship team, Davis culminated his sterling career that season by being named first-team All-American, the MVP of the ACC, and the defensive MVP in the Orange Bowl victory against Nebraska. As the third-leading tackler in Clemson history, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

16. ORANGE PANTS

The orange pants made their debut on Nov. 22, 1980, a home game against South Carolina, when Danny Ford was looking for a spark for his 5-5 team against the 8-2 Gamecocks. The Tigers warmed up in the traditional white pants, but the players switched to orange in the locker room. When the team assembled at the top of the hill in all orange, the Death Valley crowd exploded. Clemson went on to upset USC 27-6.

17. DWIGHT CLARK

Although a member of the Clemson Hall of Fame for his play from 1975-78, Clark is best remembered for “The Catch” – his reception of Joe Montana’s touchdown pass that enabled the San Francisco 49ers to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the 1982 NFC championship game. The receiver played on two Super Bowl championship teams with the 49ers and later became an NFL general manager.

18. JIM STUCKEY

A top-flight defensive tackle who earned first-team All-America honors in 1979, he held the career sack record until William and Michael Dean Perry came along. A first-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, Stuckey played on a pair of Super Bowl title winners. The Airport High graduate was later inducted into the Clemson and state of South Carolina Hall of Fames.

19. MAC’S DRIVE IN

An institution since the 1950s, the local fast-food joint got its name for late owner Harold “Mac” McKeown. Filled with Clemson memorabilia on the walls, the restaurant with the old-school counter and orange stools is part of the fabric of the local community.

20. JOHN HEISMAN

He coached at Clemson from 1900 to 1903 and helped turn the fledgling football program into a powerhouse with a 19-3-2 record over that period before moving on to Georgia Tech. The inventor of hidden ball trick, the handoff, the double lateral and the flea flicker, Heisman, who also coached baseball at Clemson, later had a certain trophy named after him for individual excellence.

21. MICHAEL DEAN PERRY

The younger brother of William Perry, Michael Dean became a great player in his own right. He ended his career with the Tigers as the school’s all-time sacks leader with 28 before going on to a 10-year NFL career with the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. Perry was named to the Pro Bowl six times.

22. PERRY TUTTLE

Of the 150 receptions in Tuttle’s career at Clemson, the wide receiver was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated for one of them. That was his game-winning, 13-yard touchdown catch in Clemson’s 22-15 victory against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to clinch the 1981 national championship. He would later go on to play in the NFL and CFL.

23. JEFF BRYANT

An anchor on the defensive line for the 1981 national championship team, when he was a second-team All-American, Bryant was inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame in 1996. That honor came on the heels of an impressive 12-year career in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, who had drafted him in the first round.

24. DABO SWINNEY

The enthusiastic coach has guided the Tigers in six years (five full seasons) to a 51-23 record and a 33-12 mark in the ACC. He also has led the program to the ACC championship game twice, won one ACC championship, and won or shared three ACC Atlantic Division titles. His high-energy style has pushed the Tigers to the top 15 of the BCS standings for the past three seasons.

25. CHARLIE WHITEHURST

He left Clemson after passing for 9,665 yards and 49 touchdowns from 2002-05, a span when he posted a 4-0 record against rival South Carolina. Those numbers stood as school records until Tajh Boyd eclipsed them. A career backup in the NFL with the Chargers, Seahawks and now the Titans, Whitehurst picked up the nickname “Clipboard Jesus” for his long hair and beard.

26. TOMMY BOWDEN

The son of Florida State coaching legend Bobby Bowden, Tommy guided Clemson to a 72-45 record and eight bowl appearances. The ACC coach of the year in 1999 and 2003, he stepped down during the 2008 season having never had a losing season. He compiled a 7-2 record against USC, but an ACC title proved elusive.

27. JERRY BUTLER

A standout wide receiver in the late 1970s, Butler’s claim to fame will forever be his diving 20-yard touchdown catch in the final minute of Clemson’s 31-27 win against South Carolina in 1978. He caught at least one pass in every game between 1976 and 1978 and went on to a nine-year career with the Buffalo Bills en route to earning his way into Clemson’s Ring of Honor.

28. TIGER PAW

The most easily recognizable symbol of Clemson is the Tiger Paw logo, which has become one of the most well-known symbols in college sports. The late John Antonio designed the logo in 1970 while working for Henderson Advertising in Greenville, and it was an immediate sensation among Clemson staff and fans. Howard, who had recently retired as coach, was sold right away after seeing it reproduced on a helmet.

29. BRIAN DAWKINS

One of the greatest players in Clemson history, the hard-hitting safety from 1992-95 moved on to play 16 seasons in the NFL with the Eagles and Broncos, making nine Pro Bowl appearances along the way. In 2013, Clemson named its annual lifetime achievement award for performance on the field along with contributions in leadership and community service after Dawkins, who was the first recipient.

30. JOE AND JEFF BOSTIC

The brothers helped anchor Clemson’s offensive lines in the 1970s, and both were named to the school’s Hall of Fame in the 1990s. Both had long NFL careers, Joe, who was an All-American with the Tigers, played guard for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jeff played center for the Washington Redskins, winning three Super Bowls in 14 seasons as one of “the Hogs.”

31. LEVON KIRKLAND

Kirkland, who was a two-time All-American and three-time All-ACC linebacker at Clemson from 1988-91, played 11 seasons in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and a member of the NFL All-Decade Team in the 1990s. He was named to the Clemson Hall of Fame in 2001.

32. CHARLIE WATERS

A quarterback to start his career at Clemson, Waters would become an All-ACC wide receiver in the late 1960s. He made another position switch in the NFL, where he became an All-Pro safety with the Dallas Cowboys in a career that stretched from 1970-81. He finished his career with 50 interceptions and helped Dallas make five Super Bowl appearances, winning two of them.

33. SARDI’S DEN

This local restaurant, opened in 1995 by Irv Harrington and Mike McHenry, has become a favorite for Clemson students, staff, and alumni, as well as visitors looking for a good place to eat. Noted for its tailgating to-go packages, Sardi’s has achieved a popularity that’s inextricably linked to its ribs made from a secret recipe.

34. HARVEY WHITE

The starting quarterback for the Tigers from 1957-59, White led the team to a pair of ACC championships and two bowl games, a loss to LSU in the Sugar Bowl to cap the 8-3 season in 1958 and a win against TCU in the Bluebonnet Bowl to top off the 9-2 season in 1959. He was the first Clemson quarterback to complete more than 50 percent of his passes in a career.

35. CHRIS GARDOCKI

Gardocki’s accomplishments as a punter and placekicker are impressive. The two-time All-American kicked a 57-yard field goal against Appalachian State in 1990 and booted a 78-yard punt that same season against USC in his final game in Death Valley. He finished his career with 63 field goals and had a record 72 consecutive PATs before a terrific 16-year NFL career as a punter.

36. THE VICTORY GRAVEYARD

The Tigers like to celebrate a victory against a ranked team on an opponent’s home field with a proper burial. As a way of memorializing these big wins, a mock cemetery complete with gravestones stands at the entrance to the Clemson practice fields behind the Jervey Athletic Center.

37. WOODROW DANTZLER

The versatile and athletic Dantzler showed off his passing and running skills at quarterback in the final two seasons of his career. He passed for 1,871 yards and rushed for 1,028 in 2000, and he passed for 2,578 yards and rushed for 1,061 in 2001. That earned him admission into the Clemson Hall of Fame in 2007.

38. HOMER JORDAN

The quarterback of Clemson's national championship team served as the perfect field general for the 12-0 squad. He completed 107 of 196 passes for 1,630 yards that season, and he capped it off as the offensive MVP in the victory against Nebraska. He passed for 134 yards and a touchdown and added 46 yards on the ground. After nimbly running out the clock, he passed out after the game from heat exhaustion. While his teammates celebrated, Jordan received an IV in the training room.

39. RAY RAY MCELRATHBEY

The Clemson running back attracted national attention in 2006 after taking custody of his then 11-year-old brother Fahmarr while his mother battled addiction issues. The NCAA later granted an exemption to its rules against extra benefits, which allowed McElrathbey to start a trust fund to support his brother. He later transferred to Howard and then Mars Hill to finish his collegiate career.

40. STROM THURMOND, DAVID BEASLEY, AND NIKKI HALEY

Clemson doesn’t just produce football players. It turns out politicians, too. The late Thurmond served as the governor of South Carolina from 1947-51 before he went on to serve 48 years in the U.S. Senate. Beasley served as the governor from 1995-99, and Haley is the current governor running for her second term.

41. BOB BRADLEY

A legendary figure in Clemson athletics, Bradley, known affectionately as Mr. B, served as Clemson sports information director from 1955-89 and in an emeritus capacity from 1989 until his death in 2000. Friendly and hard-working, Bradley received virtually every national honor attainable in his field. He worked 502 consecutive Clemson football games between Oct. 20, 1955 and Oct. 14, 2000.

42. BEAUTY QUEENS

The Clemson campus has produced its share of beautiful coeds. Shawn Weatherly won the 1980 Miss USA and Miss Universe titles before becoming an actress on “Baywatch.” Nancy O’Dell won the 1987 Miss South Carolina pageant before becoming the co-anchor of “Entertainment Tonight.” Ali Rogers, a current Clemson student, won the 2012 Miss South Carolina title.

43. TIM BOURRET

A walking encyclopedia when it comes to Clemson athletics, the longtime sports information director, who took over for Bradley, first joined the department as an assistant in 1978. Recognized as one of the best in the nation at his job, the Notre Dame grad has endeared himself to media members for his knowledge, accessibility, and hospitality.

44. PHIL PRINCE

His signature moment came with a blocked punt in the 1948 game against South Carolina with less than five minutes to play that led to the winning touchdown in a 13-7 victory. That helped propel the Tigers to an unbeaten season, the first in 48 years, as well as a Southern Conference championship.

45. BENNIE CUNNINGHAM

The big tight end earned All-America honors for the Tigers in 1974 and 1975 before becoming a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1976. He played 10 seasons for the Steelers while a part of two Super Bowl champions. Cunningham was the only tight end chosen to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Team in 2003 as one of the Top 50 players in league history.

46. ROSCOE CROSBY

He serves as a cautionary tale that sports greats don’t always fulfill their great promise. The two-sport standout from Union County lettered one season in football before an elbow injury – along with the traumatizing deaths of three of his close friends in an automobile accident and the drowning death of his brother – derailed his Clemson football career and promising professional baseball career in the Kansas City Royals organization.

47. RIGGS FIELD

Named for Walter Riggs, Clemson’s first football coach and its president from 1910-1924, Riggs Field has served as a home to various Tiger teams dating to 1915. The football team compiled a 57-17-6 record during its 27 years at Riggs Field. The men’s soccer team has called it home since 1980, winning national championships in 1984 and 1987, with the latter coming at Riggs Field.

48. CHESTER MCGLOCKTON

McGlockton tragically died in 2011 of an enlarged heart at the age of 42 while serving as an assistant coach at Stanford. The big defensive lineman posted 20.5 sacks at Clemson from 1989-91 and piled up 51 in his 12-year NFL career, which included four Pro Bowls after being drafted in the first round by the Oakland Raiders.

49. FRED CONE

Despite never having played high school football, Fred Cone would become one of Clemson’s greatest players, leading the Tigers to two undefeated seasons from 1948-50. He set a career record (since broken) for rushing yards (2,183) and touchdowns (31). The fourth football player to be inducted into Clemson’s Ring of Honor, he also made it into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame for his seven seasons with them.

50. “TIGER RAG” FIGHT SONG

Student band director Dean Ross discovered the sheet music for “Tiger Rag” in an Atlanta music store in 1942 and brought it back to campus to play at football games, where it continues to be performed today. As its popularity steadily soared among Clemson fans, “the song that shakes the Southland” can be played in more than 15 ways.

Compiled by Neil White

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