I love that Clemson winning the National Championship is no longer just a collection of old highlights and stories in my mind.
I love that I have been dreaming of Clemson winning the national title since I was a boy running rub routes off the dogwood in my front yard and high-fiving the leyland cypresses that lined the driveway like they were fans hanging over the fence on the hill. I love that my dreams were never as amazing as the real thing.
I love that when we arrived in the desert to take on the football team that is supported by jersey-wearing grown men, it was raining. I love that when we arrived in sunny, warm Florida to battle undefeated Bama, it was cold and windy.
I love that when I woke up the morning of the game, I learned that Danny Ford was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame. I love knowing the coach who left the University of South Carolina-Columbia football program depleted of talent was trotted out to midfield to witness first-hand what we were building during the five-bomb era. I love that an eagle flew into the stadium just like it does at the rival school of our opponent that night.
I love knowing that the man who inspired my love for over-salted boiled peanuts, catfish stew, and Clemson football was celebrating in heaven with Coach Howard and many other members of the 1948 team. I love knowing that man, my grandfather, was still wondering why we didn't run the ball more.
I love that January 10th was the birthday of Harold "Mac" McKeown. I love the memories of sitting at his counter at Mac's Drive In every Monday night for nearly six years. I love knowing that we waited to win our second national title after midnight, so it fell on his birthday.
I love thinking before the game that it was just our time. I love knowing how scared it made me feel to think it was just our time. I love when I told my parents at half time to get back to their seats because they were about to witness the greatest half of football in Clemson history. I love walking back to my seats not really believing what I had just told them.
I love when we first took the lead in the fourth quarter. I love standing in my seat pumping my fist like Arsenio Hall on speed. I love knowing some people who read this will not know who Arsenio is. I love knowing that when I need to have rotator cuff surgery in a few years, I can tell the doctor that I first felt the pain on January 10, 2017. I love coming as close as you can to collapsing a lung when Boulware mini-suplexed the Alabama player after sniffing out a screen pass.
I love that on the very next play, Jalen Hurts slowly began ripping my heart out when he completed a long pass to set up 4th and 1. I love that he completed the process of ripping out my heart as he ran into the endzone for a touchdown...exposing deep old wounds. Wounds that had been collected from losses at Wallace Wade Stadium, woulds inflicted by Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick in Jacksonville, wounds never fully repaired from 70 in the Orange Bowl, wounds left by Steve Tanneyhill and Connor Shaw. They were all there fully exposed as my heart laid on the ground with just over two minutes left in the game.
I love not realizing that Deshaun Watson could perform open heart surgery in 2 minutes and 1 second. I love knowing with the first pass to Jordan Leggett that he began repairing wounds that were 35 years old. From that point forward with surgical precision, each pass like a stitch, he methodically healed each wound. Some wounds were easier to repair than others, but when he needed help #7 and #16 made miraculous catches.
I love knowing that all the years of watching Clemson football and thinking luck was just not on our side, ended when the game-winning touchdown pass was caught by "unlucky" #13. I love knowing that I will never be able to forget the feeling when the pass hit his hands. I love knowing that I came close to throwing my son into the blimp after the score.
I love knowing that when Watson took a knee to end the game he returned a heart fuller than the one that was ripped out minutes earlier. He returned a heart that now believed if I truly believe in myself, work hard, and let my light shine...I can accomplish anything. I love loving #4.
I love screaming "How bout dem Tigers!" I love hugging my Clemson family in public three days after we won. I love that I can't stop smiling. I love that the internet can't produce enough written and video material of the game for me to get tired of it. I love the emotions I feel when I read each article. I love that I have almost cried each day since the win.
I love changing my Facebook profile picture to the daytime version of the Clemson flag flying over the statehouse each morning and then to the nightime picture of the flag flying over the statehouse each evening. I love knowing that I have no idea when I will stop doing that.
I love that in 2008 a man from Pelham, Alabama believed Clemson could return to the top of the mountain again, when I could not.
I love knowing that no matter what happens in the future with Clemson football, the experience of winning the national title will never be able to be erased from my mind.
I love Clemson.