For three years, Tavien Feaster worked out, sweated, practiced and played for Clemson. Along the way, he became the starting running back for a little while and he helped the Tigers win two national championships.
He also wore the jersey number of the greatest running back in Clemson history, the same jersey number C.J. Spiller brought out of retirement and gave him permission to wear.
In August, he is expected to graduate from Clemson. You, a Clemson alum or a Clemson fan, would consider him a Clemson Tiger, right?
Or will you?
In April Feaster announced he was leaving Clemson so he could have a better opportunity to be a starting running back somewhere else. It was a business decision he said, in hopes it might help him have a better shot at making his NFL dreams come true. He even said he would consider transferring to rival South Carolina.
It is now being reported that is exactly what Feaster plans to do.
How does that make you, the Clemson fan, feel? Sure, you want to see a former Tiger succeed. And yes, he has the right to go anywhere he wants to in the country and play.
But how does it make you feel that he is going to be a Gamecock?
Here is a guy that wore the Clemson Tiger Paw proudly for three years, who started for 11 games in 2017, who will own his undergraduate degree from Clemson, who wore C.J. Spiller’s jersey, and now he is going to be wearing a Gamecock on his football helmet.
How does that make the Clemson fan in you feel?
The Clemson-South Carolina rivalry is one of the more intense rivalries in the country. It is the second oldest rivalry in the South and the second longest uninterrupted series in college football.
If you are born in the state of South Carolina, like I was, and even if you don’t really care about football, you are forced to choose a side. You are either a Tiger or a Gamecock. There is not an in between.
There is no love lost between Clemson and Carolina fans — at least that’s the way I was taught, as well as every single one of my friends and family members.
The Clemson-Carolina series goes back to 1896 when they first met in Columbia during State Fair week. The Gamecocks won 12-6. With the exception of a six-year period from 1903-1908, due to a near conflict following USC’s win in 1902, the Tigers and Gamecocks have played every year.
They have met 116 times on the football field with Clemson owning a 70-42-4 record, including five straight wins. The two rivals have faced off 110 consecutive seasons and it is as fierce of a rivalry as any other in the country.
If Feaster stays healthy and is able to play against his former teammates in the regular-season finale, he will become just the second player, at least on what has been recorded in history, to play as a Clemson Tiger and a Gamecock in the rivalry.
Back during World War II, Cary Cox played for the Tigers during their 18-6 win over South Carolina in 1942. In 1943, he signed up for the Navy College Training Program and was placed at South Carolina. His instructors at USC order him to play football for the Gamecocks and he was named captain for the annual Big Thursday Game against Clemson.
Cox was not okay about playing against his old team and he spoke with his coach, Lt. James P. Moran, about it. Moran was not sympathetic and told his captain if he did not play, he would not get a Navy Commission. Reluctantly, Cox led the Gamecocks to a 33-6 victory over Clemson.
After the War, Cox returned to Clemson and captained the Tigers’ 1947 meeting against the Gamecocks, a 21-19 defeat.
In 2018, defensive tackle Josh Belk signed with Clemson and enrolled in school and participated in spring practice. Later that spring, he announced he was transferring to South Carolina and played against the Tigers last year in Death Valley.
You often hear players from Clemson and South Carolina say, while they are playing in the rivalry, that they understand the game means more to the fans than to them at the time because they know each other from their high school days or played with each other in high school or are not from South Carolina. In other words, they understand what the other is going through and they respect them as players.
However, their attitude often changes when they graduate. Former Clemson running back Reggie Merriweather, who now works for the Clemson Radio Network, described his feelings the last year when he was on a WCCP-FM show and was asked about the rivalry.
He basically said, when he was a player, he did not dislike or hate the Gamecocks the way the fans did. However, when he finished his football career and he got out in the work force and was around Clemson and South Carolina fans, he started to understand it better. He now understands why Clemson fans don’t like the Gamecocks and why South Carolina fans don’t like the Tigers.
Now that he doesn’t play anymore, he understands the rivalry better and he wants Clemson to beat the Gamecocks every year.
With that, and I am asking the Clemson fan in you. When the 2019 season is over, will you remember Feaster as a Tiger or as a Gamecock?