NORTHCOAST (OHIO) COMMAND – Post and Courier columnist Gene Sapakoff has charged himself with this daunting assignment: creating a Mount Rushmore for Clemson football.
He’s attempting to select the four most important players in Clemson football history and he needs your help: firstname.lastname@example.org
I like this idea and I’m going to a put a slightly different twist on it in this space:
select the four most significant coaches (and/or) players in program history.
Frank Howard: When Howard took over for Jess Neely after the 1939 season – Clemson’s first campaign ending in a bowl berth (Cotton BNowl) – Neely famously told Howard to not bother trying to build a new stadium. Neely told Howard Clemson was too small, too remote to ever build a strong following and consistently dominant program. Howard didn’t listen. Howard had the vision for Memorial Stadium and the 20,000-seat stadium opened in 1942. He guided Clemson into the ACC and is most responsible for building Clemson into a power-conference program and leading it into the modern era of college football. Without Howard, Clemson could be a SoCon school today. Howard had a vision and belief for what Clemson could become. He was not without his failings – he did not sign a black player during his tenure, he never won a national title – but he belongs in Clemson’s pantheon.
Danny Ford: He’s a lightning rod. He led Clemson to its only national title. He showed what was possible at the program, he demonstrated the Tigers can reach college football’s pinnacle. He increased expectations at the school and all coaches and seasons have since been measured and defined relative to the Ford Era. But under Ford Clemson also went on probation. Ford feuded with administrators, who tried to tame down the football culture at the school following his departure in 1991. Ford showed what the price of success can be. Clemson is just now committing itself to football like it had in the 1980s
C.J. Spiller: Spiller produced one of Clemson’s all-time signature seasons in 2009. He finished sixth in Heisman voting, tying for the highest finish in program history. Spiller holds a number of offensive marks at Clemson and his numbers should have been greater had Rob Spence and Tommy Bowden properly utilized his skill set. He’s perhaps the most explosive player in Clemson history. But he did something else, too. Spiller became the first five-star Florida prospect to leave the state for an out-of-state ACC school since the advent of on-line recruiting rankings. He paved a pathway that showed elite Florida kids that it was cool to play at Clemson. You could do great things there. Sammy Watkins and Tony Steward followed Spiller to Clemson as five-star talents out of Florida. The Spiller Legacy is a real and powerful thing and could be paying dividends for years for Dabo Swinney and the program.
William Perry: Quite simply, Perry changed the game. He was one of the first athletic, 300-pound players in college football. He could windmill dunk, he could run a sub 5 second 40 and he was a force from the first day he stepped on campus. He was a major reason why Clemson won its only national title in 1981. He was named as first-team All-American in 1983. He presented the archetype for what coaches now seek on the recruiting trail, what has helped the SEC to six straight national titles: strong and athletic defensive linemen. He was one of the most dominant players in Clemson history. He was the giant who changed the game.
Honorable mentions: Marion Reeves (first black player with program), Jeff Davis, Steve Fuller, Perry Tuttle, Tajh Boyd, Banks McFadden, John Heisman
Those are mine? Who are yours?
I’m going to be out of town for a week to enjoy the holidays with family – yes, even sports writers have families. So don’t expect frequent blogging until around the 27th.
I’d like to thank you for reading the Post and Courier and my blog. There’s plenty of Web sites competing for your attention so I just want to say thanks and that your readership is important to us.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.