If you are a college football fan, then no doubt you’ve at least heard of the most exciting 25 seconds in college football. This mere half-a-minute of fame belongs to Clemson University. A fairly small (in terms of public state universities) university nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It also happens to be my (soon to be) Alma Mater.
A Clemson University Football Tradition
In a nutshell, the phrase “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football” refers to the tradition of the Clemson football team running down the grassy hill in the east end zone of Memorial Stadium prior to the game. In reality though, it’s much greater than that. It’s the culmination of hours of anticipation and it sums up why you came to the game in the first place.
Let me try and paint a picture of it for you:
The Build Up
Try to imagine yourself on game day – decked out from head to toe in orange (Clemson’s colors are purple and orange). Let’s say you’re one of the most dedicated fans, wearing overalls dyed orange (a favorite of students on game day). You spend several hours before the game tailgating. Clemson’s campus before the game is transformed into a giant party filled with the smells of bbq, grilled hamburgers, and hot dogs. There are sounds of men and women chatting about the day’s game and children run and play with their footballs in the grass. In general, everyone is an excellent mood.
About an hour before the game, you watch the Clemson band march through campus towards the stadium playing Tiger Rag – your school’s fight song. You join the thousands of chanting fans clutching their tickets as they pour through campus on their way to their seats.
Memorial Stadium (a.k.a. Death Valley)
You enter Memorial Stadium. In huge block letters across the top of the stands is the phrase “Clemson Welcomes You to Death Valley”, in reference to the stadiums nickname. There are over 83,000 fans crammed into the stadium this day. You can almost feel the massive structure vibrating in excitement under your feet. The team finishes stretching, and linking arms, they walk down the field in a line to symbolize their unity and commitment before running out to the locker room.
Once the team is in the locker room, they receive their last pep talk from the coaches and then exit through the west side of the stadium. Outside, several charter buses are waiting. Inside the stadium, fans are rising to their feet in anticipation of what’s about to come. You’re so excited, you’re shaking.
Suddenly on the jumboTron, you see video from the stadium’s outside security cameras showing the buses driving around the stadium to the east side where they’ll enter. All 83,000 fans rise to their feet and begin to cheer. As the buses roll to a stop outside the main gates, a short movie is played on the jumboTron to pump up the crowd. Go ahead and watch it now (it'll give you goosebumps).
The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football
As the video ends, the team enters the stadium through the main gates and gathers around Howard’s Rock at the top of the hill. “The hill” is a large grassy hill that covers most of the west end of the stadium. This is one of the student sections and there are thousands of students packed into this section. At the beginning of the game, police officers and University officials squeeze the students to both sides of the hill making a narrow path through the middle for the team to run through to the field.
The band spread itself out on the field and plays Tiger Rag for the first time of the game. The stadium comes alive.
Every person in the stadium, both young and old, shouts at the top of their lungs. The sound level in Death Valley can reach such a loud level that you can literally feel the pressure from it on your face.
Your heart pounds in your chest.
The student section jumps up and down in unison.
Hands are in the air.
Some are chanting “Go Tigers!” Many are just screaming as loud as they can.
As the band reaches a certain high note in the song, a canon goes off. The boom shakes through your chest.
The players start running down the hill, each pausing at the top to rub Howard’s Rock – a symbol of their individual dedication to give 110% on the field that day. The players say that every time is like the first time – a feeling you cannot explain and one you’ll never forget. But you don’t need to hear them say it; you can see it in them as they run down the hill. Every single one of them is ready to play their hearts out and win. I’m a Clemson fan so I’ve never experienced being in Death Valley as an opponent, but it must be pretty intimidating.
As the team runs down the hill, you somehow lose yourself in the moment. For almost thirty seconds you forget that you’re yelling louder than you’ve ever yelled. You forget that you’re waving both hands in the air. You don’t even realize you’re still jumping up and down on the bleachers. For the moment, you’re completely consumed in Clemson football.
As the band reaches end of Tiger Rag, the entire stadium explodes in the chant “C-L-E-M-S-O-N!” It’s one of the loudest things you’ve ever heard in your life. Even 90-year old men somehow find a way to stand and raise their voices to support their team.