Hundreds of grateful fans ignored gray skies and freezing temperatures Saturday afternoon to welcome their victorious Tigers home.
The crowd started gathering around lunchtime at the usual welcome home spot, in front of Memorial Stadium’s west entrance, after Clemson’s 40-35 Discover Orange Bowl win Friday over Ohio State. By 2 p.m. Saturday, a group of fans including Alex Edwards, 8, and Brea Cravers, 6, were taking turns leading the shivering throng through the school’s fight song as they waited.
The team buses pulled up at 3:06 p.m. to a roaring sea of fans clapping, cheering and snapping pictures. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris was first off one of the buses and was nearly mobbed. The players and coaches following him got warm hugs and congratulations from fans.
Some fans came prepared with homemade tokens of thanks for the team. Bella Winkler and Tiffany Jaynes, both 8 and from Seneca, waved signs declaring “I love you! All in!” Mikey Harrison, 6, and little brother Noah, 4, made the trip to Clemson from Anderson to show off their signs (We are the first team from SC to win a BCS game) as high above their heads as they could.
“We were cheering for Clemson, and we wanted to come and see the players and welcome them back,” Noah said.
The grown-ups were happy to be there, too. Chad Moller managed to position himself in front of the bus carrying the offensive players and corralled several for ‘selfies’ with his smartphone.
“I got quite a few ... Chad Kelly, Vic Beasley,” said a smiling Moller, who brought his family to the event from Lavonia, Ga.
Lucas Dodson — a kindergartner at Concord Elementary, An International Baccalaureate World School in Anderson — was hoping for some fresh autographs for his Tigers’ football helmet.
Lucas said he watched the entire game, and when Stephone Anthony picked off Ohio State’s Braxton Miller in the closing seconds, “I just went ‘Whoa!’ and ran through the house with my hands up.”
One of the newest Clemson fans was impressed with team’s performance Friday and the fans’ Welcome Wagon on Saturday.
“I’m really proud of these student-athletes,” said Jim Clements, who took over last week as the university’s newest president. “To accomplish what they’ve accomplished, you have also to credit the coaches, staff, academic tutors, trainers. ... It’s a great win.”
Clements stood down the sidewalk and admired the crowd as university employees and supporters wandered by and wished him well in his new job.
“This is a big turnout. ... Having this crowd out here is beautiful,” he said.