Clemson Welcomes Fans Old and New

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON --- Those special moments between a father and his son are moments that stand still in time. It’s moments like the first time they go fishing together and the dad gets to see his son’s expression when he catches his first fish; or that first time they take in a major league baseball game and his son gets the autograph of his favorite big-league player.

For Sonny Sims, he remembers those days when his father took him to Clemson football games and he got to meet all of his favorite gridiron heroes.

“I grew up here and I did just about any activity you possibly could imagine that involved Clemson University,” said Sims, a native of Central, who now resides in Taylors. “I have been a Tiger fan all my life and my wife is too.”

Now Sims is building up those memories for his son, Mason. The two, along with Sonny’s wife and Mason’s mother, Jill, were a part of the thousands on hand at Clemson’s Fan Appreciation day Sunday at Memorial Stadium.

“He loves it,” said Sonny about his son. “We do this every year and it has become routine --- he loves it.”
Mason, like the rest of the kids on hand, got to meet and receive autographs from his favorite players. There was a line that wrapped around the front of the east side of the stadium to the north side for Charlie Whitehurst. Defensive end Charles Bennett was mobbed by fans on his way to the concession area, while Tye Hill had fans coming from all angles to get his autograph.

“I got five so far,” said Mason, who wanted it to be known that he was eight and a half years old. “I met Roosevelt Nelson and Maurice Nelson, Tremaine Billie, Tye Hill and David Dunham.”

Reserve offensive lineman Tim Parr said it’s a day the players look forward to just as much as the fans.
“This is what it is all about,” he said.

It just isn’t the players’ autograph fans are seeking. Head coach Tommy Bowden also had a long line that rivaled that of Whitehurst’s. Bowden said “Fan Appreciation Day” is a day his team looks forward to because this is the first time they get to interact with the fans.

“For a lot of these guys, this will be the first hands on exposure they are going to have with the excitement that comes with the fan support they have here,” he said. “It is especially exciting for the young guys, the walk-ons and the true freshmen who haven’t been exposed to this experience like they will today.

“There will be a lot of excitement in that regard.”

As the head coach, Bowden likes fan day because he can get up close and personal with those fans that generally can’t make it to the IPTAY meetings in the spring. He stays and signs autographs until the last person has gone home.

“I enjoy it,” said Bowden. “It is the first chance other than those IPTAY meetings to get right up close with the fans. I will spend as much time as I can to get with them. I will usually stay until the last person leaves; and that is usually an hour after it closes.”
And it is for that reason, the Sims family says they will continue to come back each year.

“It is just a wonderful opportunity for (Mason),” said Jill Sims. “He looks forward to it all summer. We keep up with the team in the paper and on the Internet, and we just count down the days until football season.”

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