It feels like déjà vu all over again for Marty Osborn.
The Clemson alum was a junior back in 1981 when the Tigers when their only national championship in football under head coach Danny Ford. The Tiger fan out of Greenville remembered it as if it just happened.
“I still remember all of my fraternity brothers coming down,” Marty recalled, “Fifteen of us in a Winnebago driving down. It was just an amazing feeling. It was a great time. We love Clemson football.”
Fast forward 34 years later and Osborn found himself at a local bar in Ft. Lauderdale. With a few friends and several other Clemson fans, Osborn displayed his Orange Pride...literally, with a hat that replicated the top of the Orange Bowl trophy.
“We just love our Clemson Tigers,” Marty said. “They’re the best. We go to all the games and all the bowl games, but this one’s special. We’re trying to win the National Championship.”
Like Osborn, Nikki Lundstrom was in attendance with other alums and supporters socializing, remembering the perfect season the Tigers have had, and preparing to make more memories in Miami.
“It’s exhilarating,” Nikki said. “I mean, you come here and you’re surrounded by everyone dressed in orange and you feel like you automatically are family to these people. They would do anything for you and I think all of us just want to be able to celebrate our team. Win or lose, it’s been a great season.”
If you ask any Clemson fan, they’re not just bonded by their colors or their mascot, they’re bonded by something much stronger. And that bond and the support they’ve shown is something that he hasn’t forgotten.
“It’s something that you chase for the rest of your life, if that makes any sense,” Patrick said. “The first time I ran down the hill and entered Death Valley, I really knew what it meant to be a Tiger at that point. Just the energy and the passion in that stadium. Everybody’s cheering, and then we go through the Clemson. It’s something that, as athletes, it keeps us connected forever.
Sapp is all too familiar with how faithful Clemson fans are. The former Tiger played at Death Valley from 1992-95 spending some time at quarterback and linebacker. For him, being a part of a moment like this is beyond special.
“I know we’ve always done a great job of following our teams to bowl games,” Patrick said. “I think that’s why a lot of cities love when they get Clemson as a bowl game or a bowl team coming to town. I’m not surprised with the turnout. I love getting out with the fans.”
Needless to say, the Clemson faithful are all in for Thursday’s game against Oklahoma and they’re hoping the Tigers can have TicketMaster print one more ticket with their name on it. And they can’t wait to cheer on the number one team in the country.
“I think, on a scale of 1-10, I think it’s probably a nine today and a 10 tomorrow,” Nikki said. “I think it’s just exciting to be here. I think Oklahoma has great fans. I think it’ll be a good atmosphere and I’m excited to see our team come out and play how we know they can play.”
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