Taisun Phommachanh is looking for some extra tickets for Clemson’s game this week. Anywhere from 20 to 30, to be exact.
“I’m reaching out to a couple of guys,” Phommachanh said. “They’re trying to get me some tickets.”
Why is Clemson’s backup quarterback doing that, particularly with the Tigers (6-3, 5-2 ACC) stepping out of ACC play for their least sexiest game of the season against a 1-8 Connecticut team? Family, of course.
UConn’s visit to Memorial Stadium on Saturday will double as a reunion for Phommachanh, whose brother, Tyler, is a quarterback for the Huskies. Taisun, who’s played in two of Clemson’s last three games, likely would’ve gotten the chance to play against his younger brother under normal circumstances with D.J. Uiagalelei dealing with a sprained knee he sustained last week against Louisville. But Tyler, a freshman at UConn, recently had season-ending knee surgery after accounting for 458 yards of offense in three games.
But Taisun said his brother is still planning to make the trip to Clemson, and so are those 20 to 30 family members. Tyler’s injury isn’t about to dampen the family’s excitement. Not after everything it’s been through lately.
“Seeing all my family in the stands and all my brothers, my sisters and my cousins, it’s going to be a good time,” Taisun said. “It’s going to feel like high school. I played with him in high school, so it’s going to bring me back to those days with everybody in the stands and just playing ball. So it’s going to be fun.”
Tyler’s injury is just the latest setback for the Phommachanhs.
Taisun went through a similar situation in the spring when he tore his Achilles tendon, which Clemson coach Dabo Swinney initially feared might cost him the season. But Taisun was back in action on a limited basis by the start of fall camp, received full medical clearance just days before the Tigers’ opener against Georgia and has appeared in five games. He’s 10 of 18 passing with a touchdown and an interception and has rushed eight times for 53 yards.
The brothers spoke to each other Monday. Some of it was about this weekend’s game, the first time they will share the same field since they were high school teammates at Avon Old Farms near their hometown of Stratford, Connecticut.
“Going back and forth, talking a little smack,” Tyler said, according to the Hartford Courant.
But a lot of the conversation was just “regular talk,” Taisun said. More than anything, he’s empathized with Tyler’s situation.
“I’m just trying to be there mentally for him just so that he understands there’s a physical part of getting injured. But then again, there’s a mental side of it,” Taisun said. You’ve just got to stay up and stay focused. See through that smoke and see through that adversity. I just try to keep his head up and keep him level-headed.”
But that pales in comparison to what happened to the Phommachanhs nearly a year ago. Their family home burned down last December, the same month Tyler and Taisun’s grandmother died. Their grandfather lives in Haiti, where an earthquake in August claimed more than 2,000 lives, though he wasn’t among the casualties.
Taisun said his family has only grown closer through its circumstances.
“It can make you or break you,” Taisun said. “We’re already a closer family, but it’s going through stuff like that with those people, man. It just brings us closer and makes you appreciate everybody more.”
Taisun said he hasn’t seen his brother or many of his other family members since the fire. That will change Saturday.
“He’s excited, their team is excited, and we’re excited,” Taisun said. “So it’s going to be fun.”
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