Charlie Bussey was Clemson's first Academic All-American.
Photo Courtesy of Clemson Athletics
Charlie Bussey: 1950's FB Star
By: Clemson Athletic Communications  
Release:  08/12/2014
By Sam Blackman

To Charlie Bussey, Clemson has always been and always will be a special place.  

Having played football at Clemson and later serving as the Letterwinners Club Director he appreciates Clemson and the people that have shaped the school to make it what it is today.   

His relationship with Clemson started in 1953 when Bob Smith recruited him as a t-formation quarterback. Clemson was switching to the t-formation that fall and it was vital to recruit players who ran this offense in high school and know how to execute this new formation. (Ironically Coach Bob Smith’s daughter is currently a neighbor of the Busseys in Clemson.)

“I visited Clemson and, I think I am typical in what happens to many athletes and many students," said Bussey. "If you come on campus and take a look at what Clemson has to offer, that is the selling point. If you meet the Clemson people, see the campus, and tour the facilities, you are hooked. That's what happened to me."

“In 1953 as a freshman, we scrimmaged the varsity every day helping them get used to the t-formation. We had a freshman game with Georgia Tech one Friday night and they had a lot of talent. We lost 14-12, but we knew we had a good ball club. After that game, we made a pact with one another that we would do what it took to win the ACC Championship before we left Clemson.  Back then the winner of the ACC would go to the Orange Bowl, and that gave us more incentive.”

In Bussey’s senior season, the class of 1956’s dream came true as the Tigers won the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and received an invitation to the Orange Bowl for a game with Colorado.

Clemson fell behind and was losing 20-0 going into the locker room at halftime.   Head Coach Frank Howard was so discouraged with his team that he said that if they can’t play any better than that, he would resign as head coach of the Clemson Tigers.  

“Coach Howard gave us a fiery pep talk at halftime and deservingly so.  We came back and went ahead 21-20 in the fourth quarter.  However Colorado scored a touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter to go ahead and eventually won the game, 27-20.”

When speaking of memorable games, one that sticks out in Bussey’s mind is the South Carolina game in 1955.

“One of my favorite games was the Big Thursday game against South Carolina my junior year. Don King, the Tigers’ starting quarterback, got hurt and I got a chance to start.   We put in some new plays that season.  We were watching Oklahoma on television one afternoon and they used a misdirection play, and it went for a long gain. It didn’t take the Tigers long to try this new wrinkle.

“We were up 7-0 against South Carolina.   It was a second down and seven yards to go situation, and I called “1-24x” which was that misdirection play that we saw Oklahoma use and that we had just installed.  We were at midfield and Joel Wells went down to the Gamecock’s two-yard line after a 46-yard run.  We won the game 28-14. That play “1-24x” was good for at least 20-25 yards every time we ran it for the next two years.  Wells was a big, fast running back and he was a great teammate.”   

Bussey intercepted a pass and was 2-2 in point after conversions against South Carolina that day. He also threw a 55-yard pass to Willie Smith for Clemson’s first touchdown.   

Like so many players, Coach Frank Howard was a big influence on Bussey and they had a close relationship that lasted many years.

“Coach Howard and I had a father-son type relationship.   When he switched to the T-Formation, it was a gutsy move.  Everyday I would go to his office and sit down, and he would draw plays on a yellow legal pad.   I learned a lot from him, and I think he found it helpful bouncing ideas off of me.   We had this father-son type of relationship until his death.   He had a great football mind, and he had a big influence on me.   

“He once said in an article about me that I may not be the fastest player, the best passer, or the best runner, but I could win the game.  In other words I was an average player but I would give above average effort. I always appreciated this confidence in me.   He was very special to me.”  

When Bussey graduated from Clemson, he served in the Air Force as an instructor pilot, and his business career included positions with Laurens Glass, Louis Batson Company, and Palmetto Chemicals.

Bussey was also the athletic director at Louisiana Tech University, in Ruston, LA in 1981-1983. After retiring from business in Greenville, SC in the late 1990s, Bussey and his wife, Joyce, moved to Clemson.   

Bussey became the Director of the Letterwinners club soon after his move to Clemson and worked in this position for 14 years until 2012. During this time he worked to unify Tiger Letterwinners together regardless of age or sport and stressed that everyone is needed and welcome in this organization.      

“I miss seeing former student-athletes and their families. I made a lot of friends in this job. Over the years, Bussey has been the President of IPTAY and was a member of the IPTAY Board of Directors. Bussey has three daughters and they all went to Clemson and two of them were homecoming queens.  He also has seven grandchildren.  

Bussey had many honors from Clemson while he was a student. He was the captain of the 1956 ACC Champion Tigers. He was the school’s first Academic All-American and was named first team All-ACC. In addition, he was a member of Tiger Brotherhood, Blue Key, and graduated with Academic honors as well as an Outstanding Military Graduate (AFROTC).

What the Busseys do now is a lot of volunteer work.  They are not only volunteers for Meals on Wheels but also the Clemson LIFE program.

The Clemson LIFE Program stands for Learning Is For Everyone. His granddaughter, Hope, participates in this program.

LIFE helps children with intellectual disabilities and teaches them how to live independently. Even with Downs Syndrome, Hope can have the same Clemson experience that a lot of her family has enjoyed.   

According to Bussey, they live with the regular students. They go to classes with their peer-students and they have some classes with student-athletes. Bussey’s favorite part is seeing the excitement it has given to Hope and others just like her.
“They go to class and they are part of Clemson. Hope is a women’s basketball manager, and there is also a football manager that is part of the program.  Clemson should be very proud of this program.”  

There is no doubt that Charlie Bussey has meant a lot to Clemson and has been a wonderful ambassador for the school. But he is quick to point out and appreciates the fact that Clemson has meant the world to him.    


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