North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper denied requests from in-state schools to allow parents and families of coaches and players the opportunity to watch their college football teams play in person this past weekend.
The decision has ignited a firestorm in the state and struck a chord with Clemson defensive lineman K.J. Henry.
The top-ranked Tigers rolled Wake Forest 37-13 on Saturday night. But Henry, a Winston-Salem native was disappointed that his first trip back home happened without close friends and family cheering on from the stands but is more excited than ever to play in front of the Tiger faithful.
“Honestly it was kind of sad talking to my family before the game. I was really excited to start for the first time and have my family in the stands supporting me,” Henry told media members on Saturday night. “But it is what it is and I’ll have them there next week.”
Henry certainly showed up in his hometown with a sack and tackle on the first drive. He finished the game with four tackles and the sack for a nine-yard loss.
Clemson held Wake Forest scoreless in the first half and did not allow a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
The state of South Carolina approved a few weeks ago, for Clemson to have 19,000 fans in Memorial Stadium for home games starting next weekend. Compared to this past week’s game with nobody in the stands the game will feel like a sellout for Henry.
“Whatever I say is going to be an understatement. Those 20,000 fans in that stadium, we are going to be so excited and happy to see our fans. We have been talking about it and knew we aren’t going to have anybody tonight.
Henry is so excited to have 19,000 fans in Death Valley that in his estimation the limited attendance will feel better than a sellout.
“We will play ball anyway, but fans matter and I’m really glad Clemson came up with a safe way for them to come watch us play,” Henry said. “I hope everybody appreciates what we can do for them on the field. We are more excited see them than any time ever and it will be better than a sold-out crowd just to be back home.”
Clemson plays its home opener and first game with a crowd on Saturday at 4 p.m. against The Citadel (0-1) from the Southern Conference.