By Philip Sikes // Athletic Communications
The job of the person wearing a Tiger mascot suit is pretty straightforward — spread joy and interact positively with Clemson fans at any and every appearance.
The task doesn’t seem too extreme on the surface, but consider the case of December 2014 graduate Caleb Reynolds.
A backup that joined the group of mascots as a student, Reynolds made approximately 50 appearances each academic year until he was thrown a serious curveball in January 2014.
“I was having a routine checkup when my endocrinologist found a nodule in my throat,” said Reynolds, a Type 1 diabetic since the age of six. “He thought we should take a biopsy after looking into it.
“He called a couple of days later and asked if I was sitting down. I said, ‘Why, is it cancer?’ He said, ‘Yes.’”
Reynolds was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and though small in nature, the process to try and remove it was accelerated because it was not detected at an early stage. He underwent a procedure to try and remove the cancer three weeks later, followed by a series of radiation treatments that forced him to miss the spring semester.
All the while, Reynolds kept the news of his cancer fairly quiet.
“He didn’t tell many people, outside of his family, myself and the other mascots,” said Tori Palmer, who heads the program for Clemson Athletics. “This past year, when he had cancer, he would voluntarily work out with our cheer team at 6:30 a.m.”
Beyond that, Reynolds continued to make appearances as the Tiger despite ongoing radiation treatments. His schedule altered slightly, as he wasn’t able to make appearances around children within a week of the radiation.
Reynolds found peace continuing to do something he loved, despite his ongoing battle. Even with the cancer present, he did a mascot-record 205 pushups in the fourth quarter of Clemson’s 73-7 win over SC State on Sept. 6, 2014.
“I did three or four appearances for cancer patients after being diagnosed,” he said. “In fact, at my most recent appearance, I visited a child with cancer. That was very meaningful.”
He went through more than 15 months of radiation treatment, but in early May of this year, Reynolds received the news that the cancer was in remission. And as he’s stayed in the Clemson area searching for either a full-time job or graduate school option, Reynolds has continued to contribute appearances from time to time.
Palmer marveled at his ability to stay positive through the entire process.
“Everyone has always raved about Caleb’s appearances,” she said. “He always was the type to go above and beyond. He’s been a team player, so the fact that he was in treatment and still helping us bring joy to people was amazing and a testament to him.”