With No. 23 Clemson’s regular season quickly coming to a close, the Tigers are looking ahead to the renewal of their historic in-state rivalry with the South Caroline Gamecocks on Saturday.
Though he didn’t grow up with it, Georgia-native James Skalski has grown to love the iconic rivalry that is the Clemson-South Carolina game and the high stakes that come along with it every year.
“I’m from Georgia, so I wasn’t really a fan of anyone in particular,” Skalski told the media on Tuesday. “I got recruited by them [South Carolina] pretty heavily… I’d be lying if I said to you that I wasn’t considering them when I was getting recruited. Now though being here, I’ve learned over the years that it’s a big deal and I’m not a big fan of them anymore now, but it means a lot to a lot of people. This game, Coach [Dabo] Swinney talks about it all the time, 10-1 and have a great year, but if you lose to these guys, you’re going to hear about it from our fans, from theirs, and the people in the state.”
The linebacker credits former teammates like Ben Boulware, who grew up in the heart of the rivalry, for giving him a warm welcome into the yearly tradition and emulating the kind of intensity needed to successfully face the Gamecocks.
“I remember Boulware always being charged up about,” the sixth year said. “He’s from here and he loves Clemson, so I remember listening to him and hearing his perspective on it. Everyone in this building understands the importance of the game and how much energy you have to put into it and bring to it.”
Though Skalski has had plenty of fond memories against the Gamecocks in his six years and six straight wins with the program, the linebacker will never forget his freshman year in 2017 when the Tiger’s dominated the Palmetto State rivalry in Death Valley and he dreamed of the moments to come when it was his turn to take the field and experience it firsthand.
“I remember freshman year we beat them 56-7 here at home,” Skalski said. “I remember, that was my first one and the stadium was rocking. I remember Mike Williams going crazy in that game. I remember Ben [Boulware], watching him and Kendall [Joseph] prepare that week and then just dominating. You could see Ben on the field that game calling out plays before they even happen… I vividly remember that.”
Clemson travels to Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. on Saturday, Nov. 27 for its final regular season game of the 2021 season to reignite their in-state rivalry with the South Carolina Gamecocks. With a win on Saturday, head coach Dabo Swinney would be the first coach in the rivalry’s history to win seven straight meetings. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network.
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