CLEMSON — There were 300 hamburgers, plenty of pizzas and “many, many French fries,” as President Donald Trump put it, a feast fit for 100-plus hungry football players and their coaches.
There were quarter-pounders from McDonald’s on silver platters; Wendy’s burgers wrapped and ready to go.
Trump wasn’t joking Monday morning when he said the menu for Clemson’s national championship football team's visit to the White House would include food from some of the country’s most recognized fast food chains, nourishment he said he bought himself in the wake of the government shutdown.
And when it was all said and done Monday night, he joked he had never seen so much food wiped out in one sitting.
But he was, after all, dealing with the likes of Clemson’s huge linemen.
I mean you’re not just gonna NOT eat the Big Macs stacked in a pile right? https://t.co/nsWC0ptCvi— Matt Bockhorst (@MattBockhorst) January 15, 2019
While the talk of Clemson’s national championship visit went viral early Monday morning, head coach Dabo Swinney made it clear that Monday evening was much more about the magnitude of the moment than it was the calories consumed.
Trump formally invited Clemson to the White House to recognize the Tigers after their 44-16 thrashing of Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game Jan. 7, a game the President called both “fantastic” and “jaw dropping” between college football’s two most dominant programs.
The Tigers might not think of themselves as a dynasty yet and Swinney might like to say his program is still ‘Little Ole Clemson,’ but the President used another word — one perhaps more fitting.
“They are titans,” he said of both the Tigers and Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide. “Dabo Swinney is just that kind of a leader. I knew that when I met him two years ago. I said, ‘This guy’s a special guy. He inspires. He’s a very unique guy, isn’t he?’
“Really incredible. The most important thing is he’s helped countless young Americans set high standards for themselves, reach for excellence and achieve their full God-given potential.”
The Tigers met with Trump, were given an exclusive tour of the Oval Office and also met with South Carolina senators Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott, who both spoke to the team.
Graham, a native of Central located right outside of Clemson, told the team about the days when his father owned a liquor store and how good business would be on Saturdays when the Tigers had home games.
Scott, who spoke at Clemson’s spring commencement a year ago, told Swinney and Co. how proud the Palmetto State is of the team and how he appreciates how the Tigers present themselves on and off the field.
Trump even singled out freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, receiver Hunter Renfrow, cornerback A.J. Terrell and defensive coordinator Brent Venables for their performances against the mighty Crimson Tide. He made a point of locating Lawrence and speaking with the 19-year-old from the small town of Cartersville, Ga.
“Has there ever been a start like this in a college career for a quarterback, coach (Swinney)? I think as a freshman, that’s pretty good right?” Trump said. “I think the coach is satisfied. He feels good. Trevor, he likes you.
“The good news for Clemson fans is that he won’t be eligible for the NFL Draft for another two years.”
For his part, Swinney was gracious and reflective, talking about how just exactly one week prior, his team was celebrating making history as the first 15-0 team in modern college football history.
He spoke to his players about greatness and how it is not a “destiny” or a “right” but a “decision.”
Then he closed with a quote from Tyler Trent, the Purdue super fan who captured America’s heart in a fight against cancer that took his life earlier this month.
“(In an Indy Star column), he said, ‘Though I am in hospice care and have to wake up every morning knowing that the day might be my last, I still have a choice to make: to make that day the best it can be. Yet, isn’t that a choice we all have every day? After all, nobody knows the amount of days we have left. Some could say we are all in hospice to a certain degree. So why don’t we act like it?’
“Where is your gratitude? With Christmas coming up, what are you thankful for? I had to write my will recently, and I’m just thankful I can give my family Christmas presents, maybe even for one last time. Let’s not forget that my doctors gave me three months to live almost two-and-a-half months ago. So why can’t we live grateful lives? Why can’t we make every day count like it’s the last?’” Swinney recited.
“So for this team, and all you guys moving on and even the guys coming back, that’s what I would say, is go live and be great today,” Swinney continued. “In order for your someday to become reality, you just got to be your best today.”