Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger
CLEMSON --- You don’t have to tell Clemson wide receiver Curtis Baham how important this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener with Maryland is.
“It’s a big game,” said Baham.
But you also don’t have to tell him that life isn’t all about football. Though Baham would love to see nothing more than the No. 25 Tigers stay undefeated, you have to understand he has other things weighing on his mind. Things like entertaining family and friends who have been staying at his tiny Clemson apartment after their New Orleans homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina last week.
Up until this past Wednesday, he housed his two cousins, a friend, his aunt and his godchild.
“It is a tough situation for them,” said the senior wide receiver. “They have lost everything. There isn’t much left of New Orleans at this point, I’m just trying to help them out.”
Baham’s family and friends have since moved on to Houston, Texas where they will meet up with other members of the family before traveling to their final destination of Austin, Texas. But before they left Clemson, Baham took them to the local Red Cross, where they could get money and supplies, like baby diapers for his godchild before heading out.
“It is the little things they need. Things that we kind of take for granted,” he said. “They need gas money, food, diapers and formula for the baby.”
Nick Watkins knows exactly what Baham is going through. Though he isn’t housing any of his family members, he said it has been hard to stay focused on football because of what has happened along the Gulf Coast. Like, Baham, and running backs coach Burton Burns, Watkins is a New Orleans native and has been concerned about his family and his friends ever since the storm hit last week.
“I have tried to think about football, but it has been really hard,” said the Clemson linebacker. “Football doesn’t seem all that important once you see something like this happen and it has happened to you and your family.
“It wasn’t really on my mind until the game came and we ran down the hill.”
Watkins family was a little more fortunate than Baham’s. They have since relocated to Atlanta where his mom, little brother and sister plan on staying.
“That has worked out well because they will be closer to me and will get to come to the games,” he said.
Watkins, Baham and Burns said they have all been very fortunate that every one in their families have been accounted for and is reported safe. Baham was worried about the whereabouts of two of his high school friends, but they both got in touch with him earlier this week and let him know they were OK.
Watkins, who lost his older brother to heart disease last year, was a nervous wreck for much of last week because he hadn’t heard from his mother.
“It was crazy,” he said. “I talked to my mom the day before (Katrina hit) and she said she was in a whole bunch of traffic. I didn’t get in touch with her after that until four days after the hurricane.
“I was worried because I didn’t know what was going on and I really couldn’t call in the area. I finally was able to text her on my (cell) phone and she text me back and told me she would call me when she could. That took a little relief off me knowing she was safe.”
Burns’ family is safe to and his parents will be moving in with him and his wife this week. His parents, like Baham’s, lost their home of 48 years because of Katrina.
“They are staying very positive,” said Burns. “The tough part for them is not knowing. I mean I can go home and if I want to I can put my hand on everything I own if I want to. They can’t to that. They don’t have anything.
“But they are staying positive. And the most important thing is they’re OK.”
Burns said it’s hard to see his parents in this situation. He said they were both very active in their community. His dad still worked and his mother volunteered at hospitals, churches and other organizations.
“Their whole life has been ripped apart like everyone else who lived down there. It is really sad when you think about it,” said Burns.
But as much devastation and tragedy as the Watkins, the Bahams and the Burns families have been through, there is one thing they do have – each other.
“It is good to have somebody else from New Orleans that you can talk to and who knows what you are going through,” said Watkins.
- Trey Tate, Clemson starting defensive tackle, will make the trip to Maryland, but is listed questionable due to a groin injury suffered in practice on Tuesday. Cory Groover will start.
- Brandon Pilgrim, Clemson's starting left guard in the opener, suffered a shoulder injury in the Texas A&M game and will be a game time decision.
Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.