CLEMSON — Military Appreciation Day is always a special time at Clemson.
Saturday’s game against Wofford will be Clemson's 26th 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. Clemson had a flyover of four F-16s from Shaw Air Force Base during pregame as the highlight of the celebration that day.
Clemson has celebrated its military history every year since with the games held in November or when Clemson plays host to a school with its own military heritage. Clemson has a 21-4 record in the previous 25 Military Appreciation Day games. The Tigers have won 11 such games in a row, with the last loss coming against Virginia Tech in 2007.
However, for some members of the Tigers’ team the day is more than donning all-purple uniforms for the only time this season. For some players like true sophomore wide receiver Justyn Ross, the game means more because his mom, Charay Franklin, has served overseas in the Navy and has been deployed as a part of the Alabama National Guard.
“I just want to dedicate this game to my mom. Just because of what she’s done and what she’s been through,” Ross said.
Smith was unable to attend Clemson a two years ago when Ross came for an official visit, as she was deployed. However, when she made it to the game last season, as the Tigers honored the military for their game against The Citadel, it was more important than even Ross understood at the time.
“Yeah, it did (have an impact on her). After the fact, she was telling me that it meant a lot to her because I took my official on Military Appreciation Day, so It does take a big toll on her,” Ross said.
Ross entered 2019 following a dazzling true freshman season in 2018 in which he caught 46 passes for a team-leading 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns in 15 games. He announced his presence on the game’s biggest stages as a freshman, catching six passes for 148 yards with two touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl and six passes for 153 yards with one touchdown in the College Football Playoff National Championship and earned Preseason All-American status for 2019 from Athlon (second-team) and Phil Steele (fourth-team).
Ross has amassed 32 receptions for 394 yards and four touchdowns this season.
While his production is not the same as it was a year ago, Ross does not see it as a problem because there is so much depth.
“That wasn’t really my worry,” Ross said of his lack of touchdowns. “My worry was just us playing better as an offense. But now that everything’s coming back together, it feels good for everybody.
"We’re Wide Receiver U for a reason. We got depth, we’re going to roll everybody and everybody’s going to eat.”