Every Saturday in Clemson is a special one during football season — with the tailgating, food, football and Howard’s Rock. However, some carry an extra dose of pride for the Clemson football team and this Saturday is one of those extra special days.
It is not because ESPN’s Gameday is in town, nor is it because of a highly ranked opponent — in fact, this week’s opponent is the Pittsburgh Panthers
What makes this Saturday so special for Tiger players and fans alike, is that it is Military Appreciation Day for the Tigers.
It is a day that, for head coach Dabo Swinney, carries a great sense of pride. A pride that he hopes his players understand.
“I think it’s important that these guys know the history of Clemson,” Swinney said. “In World War I, the whole senior class went and joined the military — like all of them. Can you imagine being a young person today, and you’re in college and then ‘boom’ you’re all gone — off to war?
“What a privilege it is what we have here. That these guys can go to school, play football because of the sacrifice of so many and the service — that call to go and serve your country. It’s pretty special.”
Clemson has a storied military past dating back to its founding as a military college.
Beginning with the first graduating class in 1896, Clemson has sent more than 10,000 men and women into the armed services, with 489 of those men and women having paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
In fact, the entire senior class of 1917 volunteered for service during World War I. And then during the second World War, only Texas A&M and Army provided more sold Army soldiers than Clemson — the magnitude of which is not lost on the Tigers' head coach.
“The heritage at Clemson, I think it was Army and Texas A&M that had more people serve than Clemson,” Swinney said. “We had a lot of people that gave their life fighting for this country that were alums at Clemson. A lot of young people that gave up college and their dreams, just like all of these guys have these goals, because there was a bigger cause that they had to go serve for us, tod
Saturday’s game against Pitt will be Clemson's 27th Military Appreciation Day. The history of the special day dates to 1994 when Clemson had a special flyover for the Clemson vs. Georgia Tech game on Nov. 12, just one day after Veterans Day. The flyover of four F-16s from Shaw Air Force Base during pregame was the highlight of the celebration that day.
Saturday the Tigers will not only be honoring those who have served in the past, but also those who are going to serve in the future.
With all of the glitz and glamour that comes with coaching and playing at a place like Clemson, there may not be a more meaningful day during the football season.
“I think it’s important. We play in Memorial Stadium,” Swinney said. “We’ve got the Scroll of Honor across the street. We’ve got a tremendous history here and it’s not just, ‘Well, let’s do Military Appreciation Day at Clemson.' It is deep.”