It’s the centerpiece of Clemson’s pregame pageantry, arguably college football’s most spectacular entrance to fire up the home crowd.
Moments before every kickoff at Memorial Stadium, the Tigers line up behind the east end zone, rub Howard’s Rock and race down a grassy slanted ramp known as The Hill as fireworks and balloons light up the Clemson sky. Veteran ABC Sports play-by-play announcer Brent Musberger blessed the ritual as “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.”
The Rock nearly found itself out in the wild. According to Clemson’s archives, S.C. Jones (class of 1919) journeyed to Death Valley, Calif., and brought back a white flint rock, presenting it to then-head coach Frank Howard in the mid-1960s.
Years later, legend has it Howard decided he’d had enough of the rock on his office floor in Fike Fieldhouse. He told IPTAY executive secretary Gene Willimon “take this rock and throw it over the fence or out in the ditch … do something with it, but get it out of my office!”
So it was mounted on a pedestal, revealed on Sept. 24, 1966, before a game vs. Virginia, which Clemson won 40-35 after trailing by 18 points with 17 minutes to go.
The next season, Howard told his players before running down the hill to host Wake Forest, “If you’re going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that Rock. If you’re not, keep your filthy hands off it.”
Today, a recording of Howard’s challenge is played before each Clemson home game.