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Jan 17 2017
by Jordan Ellis

5 Clemson Freshmen React to Winning a National Championship their First Year in College

By Jordan Ellis - Jan 17 2017
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For the Clemson Tigers, it feels like it’s 1981.

Why? Because that was the last time they won a National Championship in football.

As you can imagine, this is exciting for any Clemson fan. But imagine how the Class of 2020 feels. They’ve practically just walked on campus and boom, they’re National Champions.

Say hello to Cloud Nine for us, Clemson freshmen.

Fresh U took the opportunity to talk to five freshmen to see how they feel after their epic win:

Matt Innocenti

"I originally applied to Clemson to make my entire family mad, since a majority of them are South Carolina fans. . .After I got into Clemson, I went and toured the campus for the first time and fell in love right away. I loved the atmosphere here at Clemson, I loved how much the students took pride in this school and I felt like I was at home. So, I haven't been a Clemson fan for very long; however, most people I know can say that I'm probably the most 'Clemson' person they know. I watched the National Championship at an apartment about a mile or so off of campus. I was originally going to try and be in Tampa, however the snow storm that came through the Mid-Atlantic ruined those chances. . .My favorite memory would have to be as soon as we won the game — my friend and I literally ran from the apartment we were at to Downtown Clemson to join the huge crowd celebrating already. It wasn't until I got to downtown Clemson that I realized we actually won and — I'm not going to lie — I actually cried that night. I would have to say it was the most amazing experience of my life. Winning the National Championship in my first year of college has given me a lot of hope and excitement for what the future holds for me. That night, I came to the realization that this was only the beginning of what was to come over the [next] four years. . .Campus has been electric ever since we won the National Championship. The welcoming home party the day after the game, the parade, the celebration in Death Valley this Saturday — the celebrating has not stopped yet. . .I can say without a doubt that every student here on campus will remember this moment for the rest of their lives. One word that describes what it feels like to be a Tiger: Grateful. I'm grateful that I attend such an amazing school. I'm grateful for the lifelong memories I've already made here at Clemson. . .The best decision of my life was to come here to Clemson University and I literally have no regrets. The Clemson Experience is like no other. . .There really is ‘something in these hills’ here at Clemson."
Matt Innocenti is proud that his team is #1! Image Credits: Matt Innocenti


Carly Berrios

"As a child me and my friend always said we would go to Clemson together when we graduated from high school. . .I came to Clemson the Spring semester so I missed the football experience on campus in the Fall but I did get reunited with my friends. Also, my brother went to Clemson and my dad was a huge Clemson fan so we always supported the teams growing up. I watched the National Championship in downtown Clemson. The had the streets blocked off and had two big TVs airing it for everyone watch. Downtown was filled with so many people and the excitement all around made it feel like I was actually at the game. It feels amazing that we won the National Championship my first year here! I feel so incredibly lucky to go to school here and I can't wait to see the amazing thing the Tigers will do in the future! The campus is amazing and I absolutely love it! They had two events to commemorate [the win], the first one was when the team came back and then they had a parade on Saturday that went through downtown and then into the stadium. In the stadium, Dabo talked about the win and the seats were filled with so many fans. Having a winning team on the National level just adds so much excitement to the whole college experience. Everywhere you go people know who the Clemson Tigers are!!"
Carly Berrios captures the vast crowd of Tigers in Death Valley, celebrating their win. Image Credits: Carly Berrios


Palmer Morris

"I have always been a huge college football fan, so I was aware of Clemson and how their football program was on the rise, but I never really was a fan until I stepped on campus this past fall. I was fortunate to be able to watch the National Championship live in Tampa!  Without a doubt, my favorite memory was being surrounded by thousands of Clemson fans when Hunter Renfrew caught the game winning TD with just a second left on the clock and watching everyone go crazy knowing that we had 99% won the game at that point. [Winning a National Championship my first year at college] is a surreal experience and, without a doubt, it will be one I will never forget. Campus is buzzing!  It has been a week since the game, and everyone is still ecstatic. This past weekend we had a parade and ceremony in the stadium to celebrate, which over 70k people attended! [As a kid] I had often though about what it would be like for a college to win a National Championship while I was attending there, and it’s amazing for that to have happened my first year here at Clemson!"
Palmer Morris celebrates after the win with friends, in Tampa. Image Credits: Palmer Morris


Jessica Ruffa

"Unlike most of the students here at Clemson, I was unaware of Clemson's powerful influence in the college realm. I am from New Jersey, where most of my friends, relatives and peers do not know about [Clemson]. I applied to Clemson on a whim and when I didn't get into my number one school, I chose to attend Clemson. Little did I know that everything happens for a reason, and attending Clemson was one of the best choices I have ever made. I had the opportunity to drive to Tampa with seven of my closest friends and together we had the time of our lives. Because tickets were extremely rare and expensive, we decided to watch the game with roughly 130 other Tiger Fans just outside the stadium. The live feed was projected onto a large screen and everyone was able to enjoy the game without sparing a limb for a ticket. Football is very important to me. I grew up in a family that supported the Dallas Cowboys and I would bond with my father over NFL Sundays. When I decided to attend Clemson University, my dad instantly decided he was also a Clemson  fan. Being able to watch football games in Death Valley knowing that my dad is back home doing the same is extremely comforting to me and brings me great happiness. When we won the National Championship, my dad and my mom were the first people that I called and, surely enough, they were on the other end of the phone just as excited as I was. Being away from home has been difficult but I feel as though this Championship has meant more to me than just another win — it allowed me to stay connected with my family at home even though I am hundreds of miles away. Since I have returned, campus has been extremely inviting and enthusiastic. Even when I am off of campus, when I wear my Clemson gear people are excited and they shout ‘Go Tigers!’ at me or even start the cadence count. There is nothing better than being a Clemson Tiger in 2017."
Live crowd in Tampa. Image Credits: Palmer Morris


Mata Diedhiou

"I grew up in Greenville, South Carolina which is an hour away from Clemson. Truthfully, I did not want to come to Clemson until April of my senior year, when I finally visited the school and realized that I was home. I became passionate about football once I got my acceptance letter. I watched the National Championship in downtown Clemson [in] my friend's dorm. My favorite memory of watching the game was when Hunter caught the winning touchdown and you could hear the entire town of Clemson yell in excitement. It feels like the Class of 2020 is a good luck charm. It took Clemson 35 years to win a national title, and winning one in my freshman year just gives a vibe of even better to come. After wining the National Championship, Clemson's campus just feels like one big party. Everyone has been talking about the game for a week straight. Clemson fans from all over the country came to welcome back the team from Tampa after the game. On Saturday, there was a giant parade throughout the town, and a celebration party inside of Death Valley Stadium. People are emotional and excited. A year ago I would've scoffed at the idea of being a Tiger; however, now I am filled with so much pride for my school. Clemson is a magical place and some of that was shown on the night of the National Championship. Being with my friends and peers during our win felt like a scene in a movie, one that you will always play in your mind!"
Clemson fans from all over gather in Death Valley to congratulate their Tigers.


Who knows, the Class of 2020 just might be the Tigers "good luck charm." Only time will tell.

Clemson freshmen and Tiger Fans everywhere, continue your celebration.

This win was one for the ages.

Lead Image Credit: Palmer Morris

Editor's Note: Some quotes were slightly edited for clarity and cohesiveness.

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Jordan Ellis - University of Florida

University of Florida | Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose. | Journalism | Christ Follower | Puppy Lover | Sports Fanatic

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