I have always been proud to be a Clemson Tiger.
After graduating high school, I initially enrolled at Georgia Tech. However, it didn't feel right. It didn't feel like me. I changed my mind. I knew Georgia Tech wasn't the place for me. I knew I wanted to be a Clemson Tiger. That change was one of the best decisions of my life. I met my husband, met my best friends, and proudly cheered on our Tigers, both on the football field, as a Rally Cat, and in the stands, as a student. I was a proud student and am a proud alum.
Never, though, have I been prouder than I was walking out of the University of Arizona stadium on Monday night, after a nail-biter of a championship game.
But as time expired in the fourth quarter, with Alabama ultimately beating us 45-40, the Clemson fans remained in the stadium. We stood proudly, cheering on our Tigers, chanting the cadence count and then singing the alma mater as the team stood before us, singing right along with us. And then, as we walked to the parking lot, all I could see everywhere I looked were proud Clemson fans, with their heads held high, and chanting and cheering for our team as we exited the stadium. Throughout the airport the following morning, so many people approached us, as we still proudly wore our Clemson gear, saying what an amazing game it had been, how awesome our fans were, and how they had been pulling for us. I was one proud Tiger.
It was a trip I'll never forget, from the moment we left for the airport until the moment we arrived back home. Here's how things went down for us as we ventured to Arizona for the 2016 College Football Championship:
My hub, my brother, my sister "in law", and I headed to the airport mid-morning on Saturday, where we immediately stopped and grabbed a couple beverages before hopping on our plane to head to Phoenix but not before making a stop in Minneapolis, where we met a new friend. "Fireball Dale" insisted on buying us a shot of Fireball, as well as a round of drinks on the plane, and quite fancied my brother. ;)
We then hopped on our connection flight and landed in Phoenix, where we met up with my stepbrother and sister "in law." We quickly picked up our rental van and then grabbed a delicious dinner in Tempe, where we met up with more of our crew before heading to our rental house in Cave Creek, Arizona.
Y'all. This house. Amazing. Thanks to our friend, Glenn, who found it, we spent the weekend in the lap of luxury, staying in this gorgeous, 6,000 square foot house, which had enough room for all 18 of us to sleep comfortably. Not only was it spacious and very "Arizona-y," it also had a movie theater, game room, pool, and hot tub, all of which were enjoyed throughout the weekend.
On Saturday, some of us girls hiked a beautiful mountain for a couple of hours, where we saw cacti galore, including one called a "jumping cactus," which would actually have pieces break off and jump on you (!!!) if you got too close. Believe you me, I kept my distance. Regardless, it was an awesome hike and a great way to take in the beautiful scenery.
THIS is a jumping cactus. Still gives me the heebie jeebies. :)
Our group then met up for another delicious meal at a local restaurant. The rest of the afternoon, our large group broke off into subgroups, with some playing Top Golf, others visiting old town Scottsdale, and still others (including me!) resting, napping, and relaxing (heavenly, I tell ya!). That night, we all met back up at the house and had the best time! We grilled out delicious burgers, watched part of The Golden Globes in the movie theater room, and played lots of beer pong and pool :) before heading to bed at a decent hour to rest up for the big day.
Ahhhh! Monday had finally arrived. We all got up, got ready, and piled in the party van to head to the National Championship game. It was SO surreal, driving into the city, with the mountains offering the most gorgeous backdrop, and seeing our own Clemson Tiger emblem on the stadium. We then met up with the rest of our friends at Gordon Biersch for lunch and drinks before walking over to the stadium to tailgate and take it all in.
My sibs and I headed over to the ESPN tailgate zone, where there was a concert by Eric Church and Game Day was broadcasting. They had all kinds of drink and food stands, ziplining, cornhole, and all kinds of other things to do. I was so impressed with how beautiful and clean and convenient everything was! We stood right next to the ESPN VIP area and had prime viewing for lots of VIPs, including several head coaches and former star players. My hub was so excited that we bumped in Sammy Watkins and CJ Spiller, his two favorite Clemson football alums.
We saw so many old friends from Clemson all over the place and had the best time taking in the scene around us before finally heading into the game. And what a game it was! Again, while it didn't end the way we were hoping it would, it was amazing to be there in person. Just awesome.
As the game ended, we headed back to our rental home for a few hours of shut eye before rising EARLY to drive back into Phoenix to catch our flights home. I think it'll probably several more days until our bodies re-adjust to the time change and we catch back up on sleep-ha!
Meanwhile, back home while we were away, my little trio, along with their sweet cousin, had the best time with Bammy and Digby, who were just amazing while taking care of the 6-year-old, 4-year-old, 23-month-old, and 20-month-old kiddos. Whew! It'll probably take them several more days to catch up on sleep-ha!
The great news is that our Tigers are supposed to be even better next year; so, with any luck, we'll be repeating the entire experience in Tampa next year. Go Tigers!