Former Tiger Clelin Ferrell Recalls His First Run-In with South Carolina Fans
CLEMSON — The world of college football rivalries has seen family members fight, best friends no longer talk to each other and their respective schools lose recruits.
The last is the case for former Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell, whose trip to the University of South Carolina on an official visit was spoiled by a run-in at a Waffle House.
“My first visit to Clemson, I came in for the spring game and heard a lot of different things about the rivalry and people saying different things,” Ferrell said. “After my first visit to Clemson, I took a visit to South Carolina. Mind you, it’s a little bit different down there. Their fans take it a little bit differently than how our fans do. Obviously, none of us like each other.
“When I went down there, I went to Waffle House, and some guy came walking into the Waffle House in Columbia with a Clemson shirt on. Next thing I know, I see people trying to fight him and stuff like that. I was like, ‘OK, what is going on here?’ But yeah, its’ real down here. Now I understand why people take it so serious.”
For Ferrell — a Richmond, Va. native who didn't grow up amid the Clemson-Carolina feud — there is taking the game seriously and then there is taking the rivalry too far. And that is exactly how he feels when he thinks about the fan base at South Carolina.
In 2015, Ferrell joined fellow redshirts Tanner Muse and Denzel Johnson as they drove down to join their teammates on the sidelines for the Tigers’ season-ending 37-32 victory. But during the game, Ferrell and his teammates were subjected to having “stuff” thrown at them and other members of their team while on the sideline.
While he doesn’t take those actions personally, it was a lesson in how serious the fans are about the annual Palmetto Bowl.
“From what I’ve seen, I’ve seen them take it a little bit too far,” Ferrell said. “When I went down there my redshirt year, they were throwing stuff at us and throwing stuff at us as we walked into the tunnel. Fans do that everywhere, and that was really my first look at the rivalry. I didn’t understand how serious it was.”
While the Tigers are currently riding a five-game winning streak in the series, it was not long ago that the Gamecocks held the upper hand — literally, as the South Carolina faithful would hold up five fingers, signaling their five straight wins in the series.
But it was Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney who was unaware of the fact that fans were mocking him and his program in photos taken with him.
“Coach Swinney would sometimes take pictures with different South Carolina fans, just because they would come up to him and ask for pictures, and a lot of times they would be in the picture doing this (five bomb),” Ferrell said. “He didn't know what that meant. So when he told me that story and someone had finally told him what that meant, he was like, 'Dang I didn't know that was going on.’”
Since those photos were taken, the Tigers have reeled off five straight victories.
But for Ferrell, those photos did not serve as motivation to beat the Gamecocks because the only motivation he needed was to go out and play his best.
“That was kind of funny to me,” Ferrell said. “I don't really get into the whole thing with rivalries because when you are a player, that shouldn't affect you and that shouldn't be the reason why you are playing just because it's a rivalry. That shouldn't be your motivation. It should be just going out there and playing your best for your team and stuff like that.”