Tears, raw emotion cap big day as Tigers celebrate National Championship with fans


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Boulware breaks down during his speech
Boulware breaks down during his speech

CLEMSON – Tears have been a common sight the last week, and Saturday wasn’t any different.

Clemson University celebrated the school’s National Championship in football with a parade and celebration Saturday morning, and the tears and raw emotion that poured forth after the Tigers’ 35-31 win over Alabama last Monday night were back for the celebration.

Linebacker Ben Boulware, choked with emotion, told the crowd, “I’m one of y’all” before thanking former players like Grady Jarrett and Eric Mac Lain for teaching him how to be a leader.

Defensive tackle Carlos Watkins pointed to retiring defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks and said, “I love that man.”

Safety Jadar Johnson told the crowd he was nervous, then told his dad thank you for being his hero.

Nearly 70,000 fans traveled to Clemson to celebrate Clemson’s first title since the 1981 team accomplished the same feat. Members of that team walked the parade route through downtown Clemson and into the stadium, then stood on the field and watched as the Tigers received the AFCA Coaches Trophy and the College Football Playoff Trophy.

Swinney pointed to the corner of the stadium where the 1981 team is honored and reminisced about telling his team a story the day the team left for Tampa for the National Championship.

“The last practice we had here in Clemson before we left for Tampa, we had it right here in this stadium,” Swinney told the orange-clad crowd. “And before we went in and showered and changed our clothes for the trip to Tampa, I pointed up there, and I told them, ‘Boys, that 1981 team has been awfully lonely up there on that stadium for a long time, and this is the team that is going to join them. “The next thing I told them was next Saturday we are going to have a parade to celebrate, and Death Valley is going to be packed to the house to celebrate the 2016 National Champions.”

Swinney told the team that day that their story would be one they wrote themselves.

“Last year, when the season was over, there were a lot of books written, lots of documentaries, lots of DVDs, and I told the team that all year long that all those people can do is just document and report what happened,” Swinney said. “‘What you have to understand is that we have the pen in our hands and we write the story. We write the ending.

“And what an ending they wrote Monday night in Tampa, Florida. What an ending.”

Swinney said he knew the events of the past week would happen, but he wanted fans to recognize that winning isn’t the only prize.

“I literally dreamed about this. Dreamed about it. I’ve seen this. I still think I am dreaming. I’ve seen this,” he said. “And it is great. But it is how we won that matters the most to me. I’ve told these guys that one day we can hold that trophy up, and we can be transparent, and we can know we did it right. And I am so thankful for these young men. But these trophies, they aren’t going to define us. The culture of our program is what we will be defined by and that culture is how we build men while they are at Clemson. That culture is about how we teach these people to love and serve and care about each other. That is what our culture is going to be defined by.”

Swinney ended his 35-minute speech by telling the fans to not only enjoy the moment and the ending of the season but to take pleasure in the journey as well.

“What I am trying to tell you, what a great moment. This is a great moment,” Swinney said. “This is what we’ve dreamed about. But the best is yet to come. It’s yet to come. So make sure that everybody enjoys the journey. I love you, God bless you, and go Tigers!”


Photo Gallery: Victory Celebration in Death Valley

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