An estimated crowd in upwards of 15,000 journeyed to Death Valley on Sunday afternoon for Clemson Football’s annual Fan Appreciation Day.
Tiger Nation traveled from far and wide to see the defending national champions, while taking advantage of the opportunity for autographs and interaction with players and coaches.
Many fans were reminiscing on the 2016 championship as well as the 1981 campaign.
“Excitement is in the air in the Upstate and it’s a lot bigger than it was in ’81,” said Keith Austin from Travelers Rest, who has been an IPTAY member for 24 years and was attending his 22nd Fan Day on Sunday.
Several fans spoke of the 1981 season, but described this year’s feeling as even more special. With the impact of social media and marketing in today’s age the publicity for the Tigers has fans excited about Clemson Football from all over the country.
One fan claimed to travel all the way from California to see the Tigers and witness Monday’s solar eclipse at the same time.
Lucy Scott, who graduated from Clemson in 1982, has special memories from the 1981 season. She believes the buzz now is very similar to then.
“I think the excitement is close to the same; everybody wanted it so badly” she said.
However, Scott also knows it is not easy to maintain that level of success.
“It’s hard to defend a championship after you come off of such a high, but we have so many good players and Dabo (Swinney) is such a good coach,” she said.
Scott mainly desired to get her picture taken with the trophy.
Fan Day has a very special meaning for Russ Dalton and his daughter Andy. She has cerebral palsy due to a brain injury at birth. Her father said, “seeing her interact with the players … they’re so good to her. The quality of player that Dabo and the coaching staff brings in is unbelievable.”
The kindness of the Clemson players and coaches makes Fan Appreciation Day more than an event for the Dalton family. Fan day, for much of Clemson nation carries more weight than an autograph or a free poster.
“They take time out to make her feel special,” he said. “It has endeared Clemson to my heart.”
Clemson fans brought their lofty expectations to fan day as well.
Jeff Johnson from Williamston makes the trip over to Clemson Memorial Stadium with his son every year for Fan Day. He is confident the Tigers will have a successful season but is hesitant to expect too much from the Tigers.
“I think we have to wait and see there are a lot of holes to fill but we have so much talent to fill,” he said. “I’m excited and optimistic.”
While fan day is hectic and even chaotic for many people, it is an event that brings Tiger fans into Death Valley to catch up with their game day friends and interact with the team they love so dearly.
The Clemson faithful only has to wait 13 more days to travel back into Death Valley and see their Tigers play Kent State in the season opener on Sept. 2.
Have you ordered the 2017 Clemson season preview ‘Best is the Standard’ from the staff that covers Clemson football 365 days a year? Order yours today to make sure you get a copy!