CLEMSON — The flock of local and national media gathered around and got their piece of Clemson sophomore tight end Stanton. Seckinger not long after he’d caught the winning touchdown to beat Georgia late Saturday night.
Meanwhile, a tall gentleman stood quietly on the opposite side of the muggy corridor underneath Memorial Stadium, watching intently and beaming with pride.
Stan Seckinger, at 6-3, didn’t have to crane his neck very far to watch his 6-4 son try to put the biggest play of his football life into words.
After his interviews ended, the celebration began. Stan and Stanton shared a euphoric embrace. Stan didn’t say much. He didn’t need to.
“My dad’s a pretty calm and reserved guy,” Stanton Seckinger said two days later. “Even though he’s been following this team for so long, for him to be so happy for me means a lot.”
So it meant something that Stan Seckinger felt compelled to apologize during a phone interview Monday for cracks in his voice, by virtue of yelling and screaming into the night in Death Valley.
A twist, though: “This team,” as Stanton said, isn’t Clemson. It’s Georgia.
“I went to the University of Georgia. I was a Georgia fan. All my family is Georgia fans,” Stan Seckinger said. “And actually, Stanton was a Georgia fan growing up because we watched Georgia.”
Stan and Terrye Seckinger now make their home in Mount Pleasant, and Stanton was born and raised in the Lowcountry. However, Stan grew up in Rincon, Ga., two hours down the coast from Charleston, and graduated from Georgia in 1976.
“But I have no split allegiance,” said Stan Seckinger, who manages Fort Sumter Tours, founded by Stanton’s grandfather. “I hope Georgia has a great season; I’m just happy they lost the first game.”
There are plenty of Clemson ties in the Seckinger clan, before Stanton’s time. Terrye Campsen played volleyball for the Tigers in 1977-78 — she met Stan through work in Charleston — and Stanton’s older brothers Trevor (2009) and Trenton (2011) are Clemson graduates.
For one of Stan and Terrye’s first dates, they attended the Georgia-Clemson game in 1981 at Memorial Stadium.
The defending national champion Bulldogs committed nine turnovers and the Tigers won 13-3 to spring its own national title run, and a year later, Stan and Terrye were married.
“So it was not a real fun game for me,” Stan said, “but it’s a good memory to have.”
Stanton’s 9-yard grab is yet another. His tightrope walk along the right sideline with 7 minutes, 40 seconds remaining gave Clemson a 38-28 lead, its first breathing room of more than 7 points, and the Tigers held on for a 38-35 triumph to roar into the national championship conversation.
Pretty good for a kid who was told out of Porter-Gaud School he’d have to wait.
Head coach Dabo Swinney has enjoyed telling the story of Seckinger being recruited as a wide receiver, but Clemson asked Seckinger to grayshirt, which means he’d have to wait through the 2011 season to enroll in school in order to preserve the Tigers’ scholarship limit.
“When they originally told me you’re going to have to grayshirt, that’s when I started looking around to different places,” Seckinger said, “because I wasn’t sure that was what I wanted to do.”
His backup plan was North Carolina State, which hosts the Tigers on Sept. 19, and he also gave some thought to South Carolina. In the end, he decided he was fine waiting his turn.
“Visiting a bunch of different schools and coming back to Clemson every time, Clemson just stands out so far away from all the other schools,” Seckinger said. “That’s really the reason why I chose to come here.”
So he arrived in the summer of 2011, and redshirted the ensuing fall while Clemson won the ACC championship.
Because of the Tigers’ loaded class of wide receivers, Seckinger was asked to bulk up and convert to tight end. After backing up Brandon Ford last year, Seckinger was in position to start once Sam Cooper tore his ACL in the 2013 spring game.
But at the same time, true freshman and early enrollee Jordan Leggett starred in spring practices, and was considered the primary pass-catching option at tight end. When Leggett sprained his MCL in mid-August, converted fullback Darrell Smith was named the starting tight end for his blocking ability.
It seemed Seckinger was the eternal odd man out. Except that’s never how Swinney saw him, who along with the grayshirt offer promised Seckinger a chance, sooner or later.
“He’s exactly what I thought he would be: he’s a great football player,” Swinney said after Saturday’s game. “He’s a young player, but he’s got ‘it’, whatever that is. … He’s going to leave his mark on this program.”
Seckinger also grabbed a 17-yard pass in the opening quarter. Of course, he’ll be remembered far more for his second and final catch of the evening.
“I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. This place is unbelievable,” Seckinger said. “There’s something special about Clemson, and you feel it when you come up here.”