When Clemson’s team bus rolled around the corner by Clemson Memorial Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, linebacker Ben Boulware began to tear up.
Less than 24 hours after Clemson won the national championship game against Alabama at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Monday night, Boulware and the Tigers were greeted by thousands of Clemson fans, who waited at Death Valley to celebrate the school’s first national title in 35 years.
“This is unreal,” Boulware told ESPN’s Marty Smith during SportsCenter’s coverage of Clemson’s arrival. “When we rolled around that corner, I started tearing up. They filled the stadium up, and it’s obviously crazy. I think it shows we have the best fans in all of college football.”
The Tigers didn’t just win the national title for themselves. They did it for all of the fans who waited a long time for Clemson to reach the top of the college football world again.
“It’s more than a trophy for our team — it’s for our community,” Boulware said. “They showed up tonight, and it’s such a satisfying feeling that we got to come back to all these people.”
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott knows as much as anyone what the championship means to the community, having played or coached at Clemson since he was an 18-year-old freshman in 1999.
Scott, Boulware and the rest of the team were emotional as they rode the bus back to Death Valley, returning home at the end of a special journey that neither they nor Clemson’s fans will ever forget.
“It’s been a long time coming, and these fans have wanted it for a long time,” Scott said. “When coach (Dabo) Swinney took over as the head coach, he said we’re going to get back to the top, and it was very important to him that he bring a national championship back to Clemson.
“And it’s truly incredible to travel all the way from the airport all the way here and see all the fans outside. It’s emotional.”