It is a day he will never forget.
During his playing career, Steve Fuller experienced a lot of great things. He led Clemson to an ACC Championship and a No. 6 national ranking. He was the first Clemson player to earn back-to-back ACC Player of the Year honors. He was an All-American. He was picked in the first round of the NFL Draft. He was a starting quarterback in the NFL, and he was a part of a Super Bowl Championship team.
Fuller had his fair share of great experiences, memories that can last a lifetime. However, the thing he remembers the most about his playing days is the reception he and his Clemson teammates got after beating Maryland in College Park, Maryland to clinch the 1978 ACC Championship.
When their plane landed in Greenville, there were thousands and thousands of people who greeted them at the airport.
“We had never seen anything like that,” Fuller said. “We always had great fan support, but the Clemson people basically shut down the airport. It was a great, great moment.”
More than 8,000 fans greeted the Tigers as cars parked up and down both sides of the road made its way for more than a mile from the airport to Interstate 85.
“We saw a lot of people, but we really did not understand what was happening until we got out,” Fuller recalled. “The Greenville Airport was not that big at the time, but it was jammed full of Clemson folks. It was a homecoming you can’t ever imagine. For us it was something we never experienced before. It was fabulous.”
Former Clemson coach Danny Ford remembers how the airport was just so full of Clemson fans they could barely walk through the airport and into the parking lot where their buses were waiting for them.
“It was just amazing,” he said. “I think that was one of the first times Jim [Phillips] told the people on the radio what time we were getting in and there were just so many there to meet us. It was just a great experience and we were just so appreciative.”
Though they were appreciative, and it was something they had never seen before, Fuller wasn’t surprised. This is what the Clemson players had come to expect from Clemson Tiger fans. Win or lose, rain or shine, they support their team.
In 1975, Fuller’s freshman year, Clemson went 2-9, its worst overall record since it joined the ACC in 1953.
“When you are 2-9 as a fan base, it can be pretty easy to get down on your team,” he said. “They were never down on us. They always filled the stadium. I guarantee, if you look at the end of the season in 1975, that stadium was still full.
“They were always completely supportive and positive about everything you are doing. That’s the thing that is special about Clemson is that relationship.”
Fuller says that passion Clemson fans had when he played in the mid-to-late 1970s is still there today. He sees it every time he comes up for a game or when the Tigers are on the road, playing in a bowl game or national championship, they are always there, and they always make their presences know.
“It has always been there, and I think it always will be,” the Clemson Hall of Famer said. “Certainly, it is a little easier now, but even back then, it was there.”
–File Photo courtesy Clemson Athletic Communications
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