For many Clemson and South Carolina fans, the greatest week of the year is upon them … it’s rivalry week. Emotions are running high as the second-ranked Tigers use this week to prepare to travel to Columbia to face the Gamecocks Saturday night under the lights at 7:30 p.m. in Williams-Brice Stadium.
On Monday the media spoke to co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott,, defensive end Clelin Ferrell and quarterback Kelly Bryant. Here is what we heard:
For many, Saturday will not be “just a game.” The passion shown from the fan bases of both schools is extremely intense. Many families in the state of South Carolina and even outside of it are divided.
Tony Elliott is a prime example of that division as his sister and aunt are both graduates of South Carolina, while Elliott graduated and played football for Clemson coming on as a walk-on in 1999 and leaving as co-captain his senior season in 2003. Yesterday was the birthday of Elliott’s sister who is a graduate of South Carolina. He jokingly said the week of this rivalry is always intense for his family.
“I haven’t been able to convert her yet,” Elliott said. “I have to confess my wife talked to her and she face-timed with the boys. I didn’t realize it (was her birthday) until it was too late.
“It was probably 10:30 last night and so I tried to call and I was like oh Lord, she’s going to be so upset because she thinks this is about the rivalry but really I was just focused on working. But she did text me back this morning and said it was okay.”
Although the rivalry is friendly, family fun Elliott admitted if the Gamecocks come out on top his sister certainly won’t let him forget.
“I think she’s going to pull against me this week and my birthday is on Sunday so we probably won’t have much conversation until the end of this one,” he said. “At the end of the day she’s family but she’s got a lot of pride in the school that she attended and I have a tremendous amount of pride and for the rest of the year, if I have the upper hand, I don’t say much, but if she gets the upper hand, little sister is going to take her jabs.”
Ferrell who was recruited by the Gamecocks, spoke about his visit to Columbia when he was in high school. He was surprised when he saw a Gamecock fan trying to fight a Clemson fan for just wearing a t-shirt at a local Waffle House.
“Mind you, now it’s a little bit different down there,” Ferrell said. “I would say their fans take it a little bit different than how ours do. Obviously none of us like each other but we have two very different fan bases. When I went down there I went to a Waffle House and some guy walked in wearing a Clemson shirt into the Waffle House in Columbia.
“The next thing I know I see people trying to fight him and stuff like that so I’m like, ‘Okay well what’s going on here with that?’ But yeah man, it’s real. It’s really real down here. I didn’t notice that when I first came to Clemson but now I understand why people take it so seriously.”
Bryant is aware of how hostile Saturday’s environment could potentially be but he’s also familiar with how much this rivalry means to people so he is eager to lead the Tigers (10-1) to a victory.
“It’s special to participate in this rivalry,” he said. “I can say later on down the road that I was a starting quarterback in this rivalry. It means a lot to a lot of people in the state. A lot of people plan their whole lives around Clemson-South Carolina, so it’s special. Really looking forward to it.”