Clemson Athletics' Social Summer promotion continues today, June 12, with Web Wednesday. Each week a story that encompasses the Clemson experience will be featured on our webpage. This week's memory comes from Justin Snyder of Mechanicsburg, PA. He tells how the Clemson game day experience led him to become a lifelong Tiger fan.
As long as I've been able to talk and walk, I've been a little different when it comes to my love of sports. Growing up in Central Pennsylvania, it's all about Penn State, Pittsburgh and even West Virginia. However, my roots bring me to Anderson, South Carolina...my mom's hometown. Since I can remember, I have been walking around in my Solid Orange and sporting a Tiger Paw at every opportunity. It wasn't until the year 2000 when my love for the Tigers took off. My family took a trip down to South Carolina to visit my mom's side of the family and it just happened to be the week of the famed Clemson-South Carolina rivalry game. I can remember spending the day out by the lake at Lake Hartwell and then heading over to a family member's house to watch the game. My favorite player, Woody Dantzler, led the Tigers on a late drive with a huge pass to Rod Gardner and the Tigers kicked a last second field goal to beat the Gamecocks 16-14. The next day we traveled to a local Clemson store where I got to spend my saved up birthday money on all the Clemson gear I could afford. I basically wore my Clemson gear every day for the next few weeks, much to the chagrin of all my PSU counterparts who questioned how a lifelong PA resident could like a team from South Carolina.
Eight years down the road, I was a high school graduate and a young Specialist in the U.S. Army Reserves. I was leaving for Iraq for a year long deployment and was in Atlanta for a 2 week class to prepare to perform my job as a Public Affairs Journalist/photographer. While there, on a whim, one of our instructors asked if any of us happened to like Clemson and I received the opportunity to film myself reciting the Pledge of Allegiance for use at the famed Death Valley. I never knew if it got used, but promised myself that when I got home a year later I would get to a game as a testament to returning safe.
I returned from Iraq in March of 2009 and one of my first orders of business was to reward myself with tickets. One of my best buddies is a huge Florida State fan and I'd always loved that game since the days of the Bowden Bowl matchups. I gathered a group of friends and I decided it would be the perfect game to attend. We packed the Jeep with cornhole boards, coolers, tables and gear and drove 12 hours through the night until we reached South Carolina around 2 am. In the morning, I woke up early because I could hardly contain my excitement and traveled to that same store I'd visited 8 years earlier as a young kid, now an adult. I'd been talking up my current favorite Clemson player, CJ Spiller, for months now as a Heisman front runner and I couldn't wait to prove to my Pennsylvania friends how great he was in person. We headed to the stadium early to tailgate for the game that night. We had a blast taking in the sights and festivities. Just before kickoff we arrived at our seats. I had seats in the endzone, row 3, right next to the Hill and Howard's Rock. The excitement I got from the team running down the Hill was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Looking around and seeing the sea of orange, hearing the war chants, the stadium lit up under lights and seeing the team on the field...it was a dream come true. That night Clemson would go on to win on national television. CJ had a huge game and all my friends were believers. The night couldn't have gone any better and as I stood and watched the fans storm Frank Howard Field, I couldn't have been more proud to carry the Clemson banner 12 hours away in Central Pennsylvania.
As I drove home the next morning, I couldn't help but think back over the years on how far I'd come as a person and as a fan. I made it back from a deployment to Iraq and was now living out a dream with some of my best friends. It all goes back to that day as a 12 year old in Anderson and a last second field goal to beat an in-state rival. You can bet now, that no matter where I am in this world, you'll find me in my Solid Orange gear on game day.
Do you have a story you would like to share with us? Fans are encouraged to submit their own experiences by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include your name, hometown, phone number and a photo.