CLEMSON – This promises to be a day like no other at Death Valley.
When The Citadel and Clemson get together for Saturday’s football game kicking off at 12:04 p.m., three different celebrations will be going on at the same time.
First, it’s Senior Day. Seven players were part of head coach Dabo Swinney’s first recruiting class and are completing their fifth and final fall in the program, a group that includes quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Roderick McDowell and linebacker Spencer Shuey. In all, 19 seniors will make their final trip down the Hill and be honored with their families.
“It kind of gets frozen in time each and every year when those seniors have their last moment in Death Valley, a place they spent so much time in,” Swinney said. “What a special group this has been to coach and be around the last 4-5 years.”
This is Clemson’s first official “Purple Out,” when fans are encouraged to wear purple to honor the military. Walk-on wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez is a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient from his time serving in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army.
Along those lines, it’s the 20th annual Military Appreciation Day on campus, a yearly ritual going back to 1994 when a special flyover of four F-16 jets from Shaw Air Force Base ushered in the Georgia Tech-Clemson game one day after Veterans Day.
Two decades later, with Memorial Park and the Scroll of Honor proudly situated just outside Memorial Stadium, Clemson continues the tradition, and with a themed color for the first time.
“This is a special week for us, and for everybody associated with our program,” Swinney said. “It’s always a great thrill and honor for us to recognize the efforts and sacrifice of our military.”
The Pershing Rifles will have a 24-hour guard beginning Friday at noon protecting the Scroll of Honor, concluding just before kickoff. On Saturday at 9 a.m., there will be a flag-changing ceremony, and Clemson alumni who are active duty or former military are invited to a tailgate on the Fike deck starting at 9:30 with a number of distinguished guests.
Bowman Field opens at 8 a.m. with the largest arrangement of military vehicles Clemson has ever displayed for the annual event.
The Tiger Band will play in the amphitheater at 10:30 a.m. and will proceed on a parade to the stadium. Again, active duty and former military who attended Clemson or The Citadel are invited to attend.
Six post-World War II Warbird jets will fly over Memorial Stadium to punctuate the National Anthem. At halftime, The Citadel’s Summerall Guard will perform and Clemson will pay tribute to wartime victims from the state of South Carolina.
During halftime, active duty military and veterans are asked to stand in the west end zone. They should head to Portal X in the WestZone with five minutes left on the second-quarter clock.