Clemson Football Championship Parade

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The parade starts at 10:00 a.m.  The parade starts between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.  The parade starts at 9:30 a.m.  The parade starts at 9:00 a.m. 

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Okay, is it worth traveling from Atlanta to get there, park, walk to the parade route, and spend the majority of a day celebrating the accomplishments of others?  Well, yes.  It’s been 35 years since Clemson has won it all in football, and it just felt right.  As it turned out, it felt right to about 65,000 other people as well.

Coach Dabo Swinney revealed the night of the Championship game that the parade had already been planned.  And why not?  Last year, after a narrow loss, over 2,000 fans greeted the team upon their late night return home.  Poor Alabama.  Their current team came within a second of finishing #1, and to show their lack of appreciation, all but 12 of them shunned the team’s return.  It’s definitely time for a party.  Only, what would this parade look like?  Well, there it begins, below.

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This guy had a pretty funny poster, a mostly hated nemesis for Clemson fans as Steve Spurrier formerly coached an undistinguished state school in Columbia.  That said, he was kind of funny, and it turns out he and Swinney are decent friends, and Spurrier even argued that Clemson beat Alabama this year rather than taking an opportunity to say Alabama, a 6.5 point favorite, blew it.  Happy to have you in the club, Steve.

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The parade began with the flags, followed by Tiger, the Kid Tiger, The President of the University, Clemson’s Mayor, members of the Board of Trustees and their families…  Anyway, one such was Dan Radakovich, widely credited for stepping up Clemson’s financial ability to build a gigantic football operations center and other improvements.  Great.  Good job, Dan.  That said, maybe you should lose the jacket your wore at your former job as AD at Georgia Tech.  I know, it’s difficult to find a sports coat to match orange so, don’t.  Just stick with orange.

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Then, of course, comes the Swinneys.  Dabo, wife, and three sons.

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They get two pictures because they’re ROYALTY.

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Dan Venables, the Defensive Coordinator, was next.  He looks just as intense enjoying himself as he does coaching from the sideline.  In a good way.

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Other coaches, including the offensive co-coordinators, position coaches, and strength coach also had their chariots – a mix of antique cars, jeeps, trucks and… whatever was volunteered I guess, including an orange fire truck for the kids of coaches to ride on.  Other floats had… a fairly good showing of members of the 1981 Championship football team.  Only a few wore their numbers, though.  Then groupings of players from the pre 1980’s, the 1990’s, and the 2000’s followed.   Then came the evidence of what it takes to run a major football program.  Recruiting staff and helpers, a horde of video editors (likely that cut and splice “film” for player study prior to each game, a surprising number of sports medicine staff, and then strength/power/speed conditioning and nutrition staff, football operations and… they’re all a part of it, just unknown to the average fan.  Then comes the star power.  Quarterback Deshaun Watson and linebacker Ben Boulware were first up.  Watson will earn more when he signs a professional contract in a few months than I’ve earned in my career.  I’m okay with that. 

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Part of being a fan is “following” a team.  Swinney allows certain players, presumably with the maturity and speaking skills, an ample spotlight for interviews with the media after each game.  These are posted on line and over the course of seasons, you get to know some of the players in a sense.  One of those is Jay Guillermo, the offensive Center.  Funny, good communicator, and great Dabo impersonations.  With him is tight end Jordan Leggett, who made some key receptions in the game. 

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In any case, Christian Wilkins and Hunter Renfroe broke the zipped up form of the rest of the team with the Orange Smurf warm-up suits.  It’s a parade, but it looks like they’re on the bank of a river fishing.  Both played huge roles in the victory.

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After the parade, the crowd headed for the stadium for a planned program of speeches.  My wife and I took a few moments to shop for awesome gear in the relaxed environment and… yeah, stand in the middle of the street.  Because I could.

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Meanwhile back at the stadium, people were on the field, the lower section was closed off, and many others went to the upper decks.  Tiger Rag, played by the band and… it gets the crowd pumped.

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What followed were… speeches.  I’ll skip the details.  It was worth it, despite all the obligatory “Thank you” extended to everyone and their father and mother.  Coach Swinney spoke for about 30 minutes, offering a couple sermons worth of Christian and football messages.  Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens [us].“  To which he added, “And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that number 4 threw it to number 13 for a touchdown.”  And regarding the forecast rain?  “You show up in January and get a day like this?  You tell me God ain’t a Clemson fan?  Come on man – come on!”

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And, there was the presentation of American Football Coaches Association trophy, presented by Amway.  This is the crystal trophy that used to be “it” before the playoff system began a few years ago.  I guess it’s nice to have both in the cupboard.  Swinney hoisted both during the ceremony.

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And, if you have 15 seconds… try this.

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