Clemson’s Mt. Rushmore: who belongs? … and a programming note: I’m on vacation

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:

Our esteemed Gene Sapakoff plans on carving the likeness of four Clemson greats into the Table Rock cliff face. Master columnist. Master sculptor.

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.

5 thoughts on “Clemson’s Mt. Rushmore: who belongs? … and a programming note: I’m on vacation

  1. I’ll play along. My four would probably be:
    - Banks McFadden: lettered in three sports, voted AP’s athlete of the year in 1939, played in the NFL, and was a WWII vet
    - Danny Ford: the only coach to accomplish what every other coach wants to accomplish
    - Charlie Whitehurst: I feel like he helped right the ship. He provided stability at a position that lacked it (aside from Dantzler). He’ll always be a folk hero in the rivalry discussion: 4-0 against SC, the 63-17 game, 1st and 35 drive. Selfishly, he was also the starting QB when I was in school.
    - CJ Spiller: Not much more to say that you didn’t already cover. Once in a lifetime player.

    Enjoy your vacation and have a merry Christmas!

    • Thanks for the note, Matt. Tough to argue against McFadden. I think Whitehurst is probably underrated and would be in my top 15.

      Hope you had a nice holiday.

  2. Man, just think what Spiller would’ve done had he been used properly. I whole-heartedly agree with your four.
    And thanks for the blogs, they’re great. I read daily now that I found them.

  3. Although you can’t go wrong with any of the names listed above, I’ve selected:

    Frank Howard
    Banks McFadden
    Jeff Davis
    Terry Kinard

    All four of these Men are in the College Football Hall of Fame.

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