WASHINGTON, D.C. — It did not take long for Congressman Jeff Duncan to get the ball rolling. The day after Clemson wrapped up its first national championship in football in 35 years, the Congressman was on the phone trying to figure out a way to have his alma mater honored as the 2016 National Champions at the White House.
“The logistics of getting this many people here to the White House … For them to pick a date, then to get them here, then to work with the university and their security and logistics then Capitol Hill’s Police, the Speaker’s Office, get them to come to the Capitol and open up the Speaker’s Balcony, there were a lot of moving pieces here and our staffs were just great,” Congressman Duncan said afterward.
In all, Clemson had more than 200 people, including the football staff and guests, hosted by President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday and then at the Capitol Building later in the afternoon.
It was a day to honor College Football’s National Champions … The Clemson Tigers.
“President Trump was gracious. He said all the right things,” Congressman Duncan said. “To see the team there highlighted in front of the White House was just incredible.”
President Trump not only highlighted Clemson’s 2016 National Championship and players like Deshaun Watson, Hunter Renfrow, Ben Boulware and Carlos Watkins’ efforts, but he also touched on Clemson University’s academic side as well, giving a shout out to Clemson President Jim Clements and his staff for going a little extra to be champions, too.
“What people don’t realize about Clemson is that it is a great academic school … one of the top 25,” Trump said.
President Trump also highlighted Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and the speech he gave to the team just before they took the field on January 9, 2017 against Alabama. Swinney and President Clements had a private meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office before the three came out together for the celebration.
“(Swinney) told them nobody is better than us and you got to believe it,” President Trump recalled to the crowd on the South Lawn of the White House. “Tell yourself that. Nobody is better. You have chased greatness and now you have achieved true greatness.
“I understand that on the inside of your championship ring there is a Tiger climbing upper ward and it says, ‘Little Extra.’ Just a little extra is often the difference between winning and losing … just a little extra, right Coach?”
President Trump highlighted Clemson’s proud football tradition, referencing the great John Heisman, for whom the Heisman Trophy is named after, and his victory over Alabama in Clemson’s first matchup with the Crimson Tide way back in 1900.
“I know Coach Heisman would be very proud of you Coach (Swinney) today,” President Trump said. “He liked to win. He knew winners.”
It was a great moment for Clemson athletics as for 30 minutes, on every major new station in the country Clemson was the news, not just sports news.
“It means we are the champ,” Swinney said on the steps of Capitol Hill afterward. “They don’t bring the runner-up here. That is the biggest thing, we got it done. We actually thought we would make it here last year and we came up a little short.
“This trip means we were able to achieve something that is hard to do. To have the unique opportunity to visit the White House, the Capitol and D.C. in such a unique way is a great experience for everyone involved and a great celebration of our team and the accomplishment that this team had in 2016.”
Besides meeting the President of the United States of America, the White House hosted the team for lunch, the team got a tour of the White House and got to learn all the history of the House and all the Presidents that have resided there.
After that Congressman Duncan and his staff hosted the Tigers on Capitol Hill and gave them a tour of the Capitol Building as well as an opportunity to walk out and look at Washington from the Speaker’s Balcony.
“I wish I had time to give them each an individual tour and to explain the history here,” Congressman Duncan said. “But to watch them look around at what an amazing building this is and get to look out on the Speaker’s Balcony and see Washington from its best vantage point. To be able to do that was good for me. I enjoyed it.”
Congressman Duncan, Class of 1988, especially enjoyed hearing Tiger Rag played on the White House Grounds as the Clemson football team was introduced. Clemson could not pay someone to advertise its university any better.
“President Trump really highlighted the academic side of it and President Clements did as well when he gave his remarks, so you really got Clemson highlighted at its best,” Congressman Duncan said. “Our stellar athletics led by Coach Swinney, but also our academics and the ranking. Clemson is really known in both worlds … athletics and for our scholarships. It was just a great day.”
“When we lost to Alabama last year, Clemson really became a winner because America fell in love with Clemson,” Congressman Duncan continued. “They heard the stories about Deshaun Watson, Hunter Renfrow and others so when this year’s national championship game came around, there were a lot of people already in the country in love with Clemson and they were really pulling for Clemson. They weren’t necessarily pulling against Alabama, but they were pulling for Clemson from the year before.
“So for Clemson to win and then for ESPN to cover this event today at the White House, it just shows the level that Clemson has risen too and it is a great day for Clemson, there is no doubt.”